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."

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"Part of that job is, when you miss, you have to miss to the extreme.'' - John Farrell on the role of eighth-inning reliever Clay Buchholz, who mislocated a fastball to Evan Longoria.

"We're putting ourselves in position to close games out and yet we've found ourselves a pitch or two from finishing the job.'' - Farrell on the team's bullpen woes.

"Fastball. I was trying to throw it up-and-away, and I pulled it, more inner-third. That's a spot where he hits the ball a long way.'' - Clay Buchholz on the game-winning homer by Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The Rays and Sox have played 21 one-run games in the lasr four seasons and four in the last week.

* David Ortiz's sacrifice fly in the sixth was his 26th go-ahead RBI, fourth-best in the A.L.

* Xander Bogaerts collected his 500th career hit, and became the fifth Red Sox player to reach that milestone before turning 24.

* Brock Holt's double in the fifth lifted his average to .337 with two outs.

* Hanley Ramirez's home run was his first against Tampa Bay since May 21, 2011 when he was with the Marlins.

* Ramirez has 19 extra-base hits in the last 27 home games.

* Dustin Pedroia was 1-for-3 and and is now 15-for-his-last-19 at Fenway.

* The Sox dropped to 7-37 when they score three runs or fewer.

* Brad Ziegler was unavailable, suffering from the flu.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

It wouldn't be a Rays win over the Red Sox without the third baseman doing some damage. Sure enough, he smoked a tape-measure shot over everything in left in the eighth to provide the winning margin for the visitors.

2) Luke Maile

Drew Pomeranz struck him out twice, but Maile more than got revenge in the seventh with a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to tie the game.

3) Hanley Ramirez

The first baseman had a three-hit night, including a solo homer and a run-scoring single, accounting for two of the three Red Sox runs.

 

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 307 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.