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."

Mitchell (knee) 'feeling well' as he prepares for AFC title game

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Mitchell (knee) 'feeling well' as he prepares for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Mitchell indicated before Wednesday's practice that he's feeling pretty good despite missing last weekend's Divisional Round matchup with the Texans due to a knee injury. 

"I'm feeling well," he said. "Just taking it day by day. Preparing. I just go from there."

Mitchell suffered the injury in a Week 16 win over the Jets at Gillette Stadium. He missed the regular-season finale and has been limited in practice in recent weeks. 

Mitchell was present for Wednesday's fully-padded practice outdoors, and he said it was crucial for him to prepare as though he will play even if he's unsure as to whether or not he'll be called upon. 

"That's the most important thing," he said. "Be ready for any opportunities that could come about."

He added: "As a competitor, no one wants to miss a game. What's important is the team going out theere and competing whether I was out there or not."

Should Mitchell be at all limited moving forward, the Patriots would likely continue to lean upon Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan as their top options. Both Danny Amendola and Michael Floyd were in uniform for last weekend's playoff matchup with Houston as well. 

Hogan suffered a thigh injury that knocked him from the Texans game, but he said on Tuesday that he was progressing well, and he was also on the field for Wednesday's practice. 

Mitchell said there is a sense of confidence in the receivers room that because of their depth, they'll be good to go as a group even if one or two members of the unit are at less than 100 percent. 

"We know there's some things we can't control," he said, "but our coach does a good job of getting everybody ready."