Atchison proving reliable with outstanding play

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Atchison proving reliable with outstanding play

Thanks to injury (Andrew Bailey) and early-season ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon), the Red Sox bullpen has been a work in progress almost from Opening Day.

When the season began, Scott Atchison was viewed a middle- or long-reliever, capable of giving the Red Sox multiple innings at a time.

"When I was putting the bullpen together," said Bobby Valentine, "the one thing I knew was that he had some length in him, that he was able to throw 45 pitches and give up a couple, three innings and I didn't really have that in anyone else. So at the beginning, that was what he was doing and when he was pitching his two-plus innings, he was getting everyone out."

Almost one-third of the way into the season, however, Atchison has been given a role of more prominence. Instead of coming into the game in the fourth or fifth inning when the Sox are trailing, he's earned the confidence of Valentine and is now viewed as more of a trusted set-up man.

"He obviously now had elevated himself," said Valentine, "to where he's a righthander I can count on to get righthanders and lefthanders out."

Case in point: on Monday, Atchison came in for the seventh, with the Sox leading by four and contributed two scoreless innings while racking up four strikeouts.

Atchison is unscored upon in his last dozen outings, covering 17 13 innings and his ERA has dipped to minuscule 0.93.

"It's been good," said Atchison of his recent run. "I'm trying not really think about what I'm doing. I'm just going out there and keeping the same approach and throwing strikes. It's been a good stretch and hopefully I'll keep it going."

Atchison isn't concerned about his role or when or how long he pitches. To him, the mission is the same.

"I feel like I can do any of those things, pitch in (different) roles," he said. "I feel like that's how they're using me -- if some righties are coming up, they bring me in. If it's the long situation, I'm the guy who's stretch out, too, so I can go out and do that. I'm just kind of ready for whatever situation. When they call, if he says me, I get ready to go."

Atchison's success has dovetailed with the improved work of the bullpen in general and the relievers have found that good outings can be contagious.

"We're doing great," said Atchison. "Everybody's throwing the ball really well. You're going to give up runs here and there. But if you hand us the lead, I feel like we're doing good; if we're behind, I feel like everybody's throwing the ball well and keeping us in the game.

"We've bonded as a group down there and everybody's comfortable that, when phone rings, if it's their turn, they're going to go out and do their job. And if they don't somebody's going to pick them up. That's kind of been our motto."

Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

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Red Sox secure playoff with 6-4 win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dustin Pedroia hit his fourth career grand slam to help Rick Porcello get his major league-leading 22nd win, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth by beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Saturday night for their 10th consecutive win.

Boston maintained a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto for the division title and ensured no worse than the AL's second wild card. While the Red Sox technically have a magic number of one, the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles play each other three times in the season's final week - meaning only one of them can win match Boston's 91 wins.

Among the other wild-card contenders, only Detroit can reach 91 victories.

Pedroia stopped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth and gave Boston a 6-3 lead with a seventh-inning drive off Danny Farquhar.

Porcello (22-4) gave up three runs, eight hits and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. He just missed getting his 12th consecutive start of seven or more innings and three runs or fewer, which would have moved him past Cy Young (1904) and Pedro Martinez (2000) for the longest stretch during the same season in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel, the fifth Boston reliever, reached 30 saves for the sixth straight season despite allowing Logan Forsythe's solo homer in the ninth.

Brad Miller hit a two-run double in a three-run second that put Tampa Bay up 3-1 and gave him 80 RBIs.

Tampa Bay threatened in the second but failed to score due to two nice defensive plays. Pedroia made a throw from just in front of the outfield grass at second base on Mikie Mahtook's grounder to get Corey Dickerson at the plate. Third baseman Brock Holt made a solid play along the line on Alexei Ramirez's grounder and threw him out at first to end the inning.

Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

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Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

Thought to be lost for the season after shoulder surgery this past spring, Pablo Sandoval could possibly return to the Red Sox for the postseason, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Saturday.

Sandoval joined the team in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox are playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Farrell said Sandoval had played in instructional league games in Florida and was "well ahead of schedule."

He could be an option to be activated if another player is injured. 

“One of the things I put in my mind that I have to work,” Sandoval told Boston Herald. “I learned a lot of things about this surgery so I had to work hard to be on the field as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of things I’ve been doing, working out, doing things so I can get better and better everyday.”

Sandoval, 30, is in the second year of a five-year, $95 contract. He lost his starting third base job to Travis Shaw in spring training and in April an MRI revealed he needed surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which was to have ended his season.

He appeared in only three games this season and hit .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 126 games in 2015.