Aceves, Melancon again fail Red Sox in end

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Aceves, Melancon again fail Red Sox in end

DETROIT -- On Thursday, when the Red Sox bullpen couldn't preserve a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, it seemed like a crushing blow.

In retrospect, that was a mere inconvenience.

Welcome to full-blown panic.

What happened Friday, by comparison, was only mildly annoying and nothing compared to what happened Sunday when the Sox first blew a three-run lead in the ninth, then, two innings later, surrendered a two-run cushion, resulting in an improbable 13-12 loss to the Detroit Tigers and amounting to a second walkoff defeat in the span of just
over 72 hours.

"It just comes down to making good pitches," shrugged Mark Melancon, who gave up a two-strike, two-out, two-run homer to Alex Avila for the winning margin. "And I didn't do that. They're obviously a good team, but we needed to get that one today. And that's on my shoulders.

"It's still only three games, I understand that. But today can't happen."

Melancon has now absorbed two late-inning losses in his first three games with the Red Sox.

Passed over for the vacant closer's role after Andrew Bailey went down with thumb surgery, Melancon came in to close the game out in the 11th after the chosen closer, Alfredo Aceves, needed just seven pitches to blow a three-run lead in the ninth.

"What can I tell you?" asked Aceves. "There's nothing we can do. But forget about that, man. We've got a lot of games to play and a lot of things to do."

One of the things on the to-do list is re-evaluating the roles in the bullpen, which failed the Red Sox so spectacularly twice in the first series of the season.

After first insisting that he was proud of his team from rallying from a 4-0 first-inning deficit and commending them for a "great job, great job," manager Bobby Valentine acknowledged that there's an ongoing evaluation.

"We're trying to figure out what to do," said Valentine. "We'll keep it a work in progress. We're three (games) into this thing."

So far, however, the journey has been rockier than could have ever been imagined.

The offense, which managed just two runs in the first 18 innings, got untracked in a big way Sunday, erupting for 12 runs on 18 hits. After spotting the Tigers a 5-2 lead after two, the Sox erupted for five runs. They then twice broke ties: one in the sixth on a two-run homer from Adrian Gonzalez, and then, in the 11th, when they scratched
out two runs.

Neither time, however, could the bullpen make the leads stand.

"We're trying to figure out what to do," said Valentine. "We'll keep it a work in progress. We're three (games) into this thing."

Asked if Daniel Bard, slated to make the first start of his major league career Tuesday in Toronto, might be an option to close, Valentine said: "Might be."

But not long after, he indicated that both Melancon and Aceves would "still go out there."

Aceves was philosophical in the face of defeat, attempting to put the losses behind him as quickly as possible.

"It's one series," he said. "The first one. Even the Yankees (are struggling). It's a game. It's what happens. Sometimes they hit it and sometimes they don't.

"Forget about Detroit."

Melancon, meanwhile, was more contrite and contemplative.

"I need to stay aggressive and not let these affect me and keep going," said Melancon.

The reliever then paused and offered a hint at the difficulty of overcoming the first series.

"If," added Melancon, "I can ever sleep."

Celtics look to end Cavs' recent mastery against them

Celtics look to end Cavs' recent mastery against them

BOSTON – As the reigning NBA champs, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is well-versed on the what constitutes a big game.
 
Tonight’s matchup against the Celtics?
 
Yup, it’s a big one.
 
Boston (38-22) comes into tonight’s game with the fourth-best record in the NBA and sits in the No. 2 spot in the East, trailing the Cavs (41-17) by four games.
 
While the Celtics have lost three of their past four, they are still in the middle of a great run in which they have won 12 of their past 16.
 
“They’re playing great basketball,” said Lue, a former Celtics assistant coach. “It’s a big game; [numbers] one and two. We win tonight, we have the tiebreaker on them, a little bit more cushion. It’s going to be a good game for us.”
 
It certainly hasn’t been for the Celtics, losing to the Cavs in each of their past three meetings.
 
And in those games, Boston has given up at least 120 points in each matchup. Despite their struggles defensively against the Cavs, Boston lost the past two meetings by just six points each.
 
Against the top-four teams in the East surrounding them (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Atlanta), Boston has a record of just 3-8.
 
Despite the outcomes, the Celtics have shown a tendency to play with greater focus and overall effort against the Cavs, something LeBron James says he sees on a night-in, night-out basis.
 
“I think the whole NBA plays hard and they’re [Celtics] one of the teams that does that as well,” James said. “It’s always competitive every night you step on an NBA court.”
 
You would think that the competitive juices would be flowing even greater tonight considering tonight’s game features the top two teams in the East.
 
Isaiah Thomas has made no secret about paying close attention to the NBA standings.
 
LeBron James?
 
Not so much.
 
“Not me personally,” James said. “It’s all about me; it’s about our team, our process. We come out and play our game every night, then things like that take care of itself.”
 

 
 

Bruins acquire bottom-six forward Drew Stafford from Winnipeg.

Bruins acquire bottom-six forward Drew Stafford from Winnipeg.

BRIGHTON -- Bruins general manager Don Sweeney gave every indication it was going to be a mostly quiet trade deadline for the Black and Gold, and it was . . . right up until the 3 p.m. deadline.

Then the B’s dealt a conditional sixth-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for forward Drew Stafford. The trade was announced shortly after Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline.

Stafford, 31, is having a down year due to injuries and ineffectiveness and has four goals and 13 points along with a minus-2 rating on the season, and has played in only 40 games this season after being dealt two years ago to the Jets from Buffalo along with Tyler Myers. The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Stafford was a bit of a Bruins killer during his time in Buffalo and topped out with 31 goals and 52 points n the 2010-11 season. He scored 21 goals and 38 points in 78 games for Winnipeg last season, but compiled a whopping minus-23 mark.

This is a no-risk move for the Bruins, who surrender very little for a player who will give the B’s an option at wing should one of their younger players begin to struggle, or who could potentially replace someone like Jimmy Hayes among their bottom-six forwards.

Other than Stafford, the Bruins stood pat and watched as players like Radim Vrbata, Jaroslav Halak, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog didn’t move ahead of the deadline. The B's weren’t about to move their top prospects and blue-chip assets while in a rebuilding phase, and they were smart to stick to the low-risk/high-reward type move. Sweeney and Company are clearly betting on the group they’ve put together to finish up strong and power into the postseason in the final 19 games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy.