Bullpen blues return

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Bullpen blues return

The numbers, viewed as a whole, tell one story.
The results, particularly in the last week, tell another.
The Boston bullpen, abysmal in the first three weeks of the
season, has improved greatly since then. Dating to April
23, Red Sox relievers have pitched to a 2.01 ERA, lowering their
collective ERA from 8.44 to 3.09 in that span.
That's the macro view.
Up close and recently, it's not nearly as pretty.
Friday night, the Sox gave up a one-run lead in the seventh
as the Yankees scored four times and took a 10-8 decision in the
opener of a four-game series.
It was the fourth straight loss by the Red Sox, and the fourth
time in the last six losses in which a reliever has been pinned with
the loss.
On the team's disappointing 2-5 trip, much of the fault was
rightly attributed to the anemic offense, which hit .200 in the
seven games and managed to score more than two runs just once.
When an offense isn't producing runs, it stands to reason that
a team is going to lose close-scoring games in the late innings.
But the relievers were allowing the Mariners and Athletics, two of
the worst lineups in the league to score in the late innings, they're
at least somewhat to blame, too.
Alfredo Aceves entered two tie games on the trip and couldn't
keep either tied, dropping to 0-6.
Friday night, back home, it was Vicente Padilla's turn.
All season long, Padilla has been masterful with inherited runners,
stranding 18-of-19. That statistic, in many ways, is the best measure
of a middle or set-up reliever's effectiveness and points to how
valuable Padillas has been to the Sox this season.
But Friday night, in a big spot, he faltered. Brought in to face
Mark Teixeira, he yielded a two-run triple to the triangle, as the
Sox went from leading 7-6 to trailing 8-7.
It then got worse as Padilla allowed an RBI-double to Raul
Ibanez, who later scored on an Eric Chavez single off Scott Atchison.
Of course, Josh Beckett had put both the hitters and the bullpen
in a hole when he allowed six runs in the first two innings. The hitters
had to make up a big deficit, and Beckett's high pitch count forced the
bullpen to have to cover the final four innings.
And that's part of the problem. While manager Bobby Valentine has
done a nice job slotting relievers into the right roles in the wake of
the injury to Andrew Bailey, there's evidence to suggest that the poor
work by the starting rotation (a 4.64 ERA before Friday night,
good for fourth worst among American League teams) has had a negative
effect on the Boston bullpen.
Before Friday's action, the Sox relievers had pitched 253 13
innings, good enough for sixth in the league.
But of the five teams ahead of them in bullpen workload, three
went into Friday with losing records (Detroit, Kansas City and
Minnesota), and another was behind the Red Sox in the standings (Toronto).
The inference is clear: the more you ask of your bullpen, the
harder it is to win.
That's especially true as the season wears on and the hot weather
arrives.
For the Red Sox beleaguered relievers, it would seem, the "Dog
Days'' have already arrived.

Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz hopes he's made a case to stay in rotation

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Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz hopes he's made a case to stay in rotation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 win over Tampa Bay Rays.

 

QUOTES:

"I didn't know I could really do that.'' - Mookie Betts, who marveled at his throw from the right field corner which nailed Kevin Kiermaier -- attempting to stretch a double into a triple -- at third in the eighth inning.

"He's playing a huge role for us right now. He's stepped in, he's built his arm strength and given us almost 13 very strong innings the last two outings.'' - John Farrell on Clay Buchholz.

"I don't know that we ever lost faith in the talent of Clay. He was in a rut for quite some time. . . But the jolt that he's given us from the spot starts he's made, he's kept us rolling.'' - Farrell on Buchholz.

"You'd have to ask John about that. I have no idea. I've tried to make the most of (the opportunity) and if a decision has to be made, make it a hard one.'' - Buchholz, when asked if he's made a case to stay in the rotation.

 

NOTES:

* The Red Sox improved to a season-best 17 games over .500

* The win was just the fourth for the Red Sox this season when scoring two or one runs.

* The win was the first for Clay Buchholz as a starter since May 9.

* David Ortiz moved into sixth place on the Red Sox' all-time hit list, passing Bobby Doerr with 2.043 hits.

* Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games and has reached base in 16 straight.

* Andrew Benintendi recorded his eighth multi-hit game, the first Red Sox player to do so in his first 20 games since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007

* Mookie Betts recorded his 10th outdield assist, placing him third among major league right fielders.

* Craig Kimbrel has a 1.08 ERA in save situations this year and 6.06 in non-save situations.

* Kimbrel has recorded a save in each of his last five appearances.

 

STARS:

1) Clay Buchholz

To say that this was Buchholz's best start of the season is to damn with faint praise, since there haven't been many good ones. But this was very good: 6 1/3 innings, one run on five hits with a season-high nine strikeouts.

2) Mookie Betts

Betts has only been a pro outfielder for a little more than two years, but that didn't look to be the case when he fired a strike from the right field corner to cut down a baserunner at third with one out in the eighth inning.

3) Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel was dominant in the ninth, protecting a one-run lead with two strikeouts and a soft lineout to left.

 

First impressions: Buchholz's strong start helps lead Red Sox to 2-1 win

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First impressions: Buchholz's strong start helps lead Red Sox to 2-1 win

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays:

 

1) If this was the last start for Clay Buchholz, it was a good one.

Buchholz was brilliant in 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run while striking out a season high nine hitters.

After contributing little in the first four months of the season, Buchholz has helped out in a big way in the last four weeks -- first out of the bullpen and more recently, in three spot starts.

He's made sone adjustments with his release point, giving him far better command within the strike zone, and unsurprisingly, far better results.

Now, the question is: how will be used going forward?

 

2) Monday night, Andrew Benintendi thwarted the Rays in the late inning. On Tuesday, it was Mookie Betts's turn.

Benintendi's catch to rob Steve Souza Jr. of a two-run homer in the eighth was the highlight seen 'round the world. But it's possible that a throw from Betts was, in its own way, just as important.

Like Benintendi's magic trick Monday, this one took place with one out in the eighth inning. Brad Ziegler retired the leadoff hitter before Kevin Kiermaier chopped a ball into the right field corner. Betts chased down the ball as Kiermaier rounded second and headed to third.

The throw from Betts, from the right field corner, was a strike as Travis Shaw slapped a tag on the runner.

Forget, for a minute, the wisdom of someone already in scoring position attempting to take an extra base while trailing by a run and instead focus on the magic turned in by the Red Sox outfield in successive nights.

 

3) Robbie Ross Jr. has become a significant part of the bullpen.

Ross took over for Buchholz in the seventh, with lefty Corey Dickerson and righthanded-hitting Bobby Wilson due.

Ross overpowered Dickerson and got him swinging at a third strike before retiring Wilson on a routine bouncer to third.

It marked the fourth straight scoreless appearance by Ross in relief and ninth straight on the road.

Ross probably doesn't have the pure stuff to become the main option in the eighth inning. But he has had enough success to be someone that John Farrell trusts in some high leverage situations and matchups.