Bullpen vital in Red Sox' resurgence

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Bullpen vital in Red Sox' resurgence

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The same bullpen which dug the Red Sox a deep hole in the first two weeks of the season is now a big factor in the team's attempt to turn the season around.
Case in point: Thursday night, Bobby Valentine used five different relievers to get the final 10 outs -- including, at one point, four different pitchers to get four straight outs -- in the Red Sox' 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.
"I was going with the matchups that I wanted to win that game," said Valentine. "Certain guys, I was staying away from, certain guys I wanted to go after. (The relievers have been) super. They're getting ready, they're throwing strikes, they know their job, they're passing the baton.
"I'm proud of them. They should be proud of themselves. They're being highly professional."
That's not just managerial hyperbole speaking, either. Since April 23, the Boston bullpen sports a 1.38 ERA, the best in the major leagues. Since the start of May, the bullpen is pitching to a 1.51 ERA, allowing just 11 earned runs in 65 23 innings pitched. When Vicente Padilla allowed a run in the eighth inning, it snapped a consecutive scoreless streak of 13 innings for the pen.
It began with Rich Hill, who came on in relief of starter Felix Doubront with the potential tying run on third and the potential go-ahead run on second with two outs in the sixth.
Hill got Luke Scott to fly out to end the threat. In the seventh, Valentine nearly wore out a path from the dugout to the bullpen, changing pitchers with every Tampa hitter.
Scott Atchison, Andrew Miller and Padilla retired three different hitters.
"It obviously worked," said Atchison of the strategy. "Everybody lined up and threw the ball well and was able to get the outs. I know you don't see that a lot, but with three lefties, it makes it possible to do something like that."
Atchison said the team's 17-inning loss to Baltmore almost two weeks ago might have been turning point for the bullpen's confidence level.
"Everybody is contributing now," he said, "and doing their part. We all felt that it was going to happen sooner or later. I think we had confidence from the get-go and it was just a matter of time before everybody got rolling."
"Everybody's doing what they're asked to do," said Hill. "With the three lefites we have coming out of the bullpen, all with plus stuff, it's a great thing for us to have."

McAdam: Price not exactly hitting stride with postseason on horizon

McAdam: Price not exactly hitting stride with postseason on horizon

NEW YORK -- The division title was there for the taking Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. When you've won 11 straight and steamrolled every other team in the division, what's one more?

One too many, apparently.

The Red Sox' 6-4 defeat to the New York Yankees postponed the Champagne party for at least one night. In and of itself, that's not a huge concern. The Sox' magic number remains one with five games to play and the club's epic hot streak had to come to an end eventually.

A better night by either David -- Ortiz or Price -- might have resulted in corks popping and on-field celebrations.

Ortiz was 0-for-5 and stranded a total of seven baserunners. When he came to the plate in the top of the ninth against Tyler Clippard with two outs and two on, it almost seemed scripted.

Here was Ortiz in his final Yankee Stadium series, about to inflict one final bit of misery on the rival Yankees with a three-run homer in the top of the ninth.

Talk about drama. Talk about one more famous, final scene.

Alas, Ortiz took some feeble swings and swung through strike three for the final out. Not even Ortiz, for all his clutch performances, can conjure a game-winner on-demand every time.

A far bigger concern was the work of Price. Perhaps the best thing than can be said of him for now is that he almost certainly will not have to face the Yankees again this season, against whom he's compiled a gaudy 7.89 ERA this season.

More troubling, though, is that Price is not exactly hitting his stride as the postseason appears on the near horizon. In his last three starts combined, Price has pitched 19 1/3 innings and allowed 27 hits and 14 runs.

That isn't the line of someone at peak form at the right time. To the contrary, after a run of outings in which it again appeared Price had figured everything out, he's regressed in his last three.

Most troubling Tuesday was a repeated inability to turn back the Yankees after his team had pulled close on the scoreboard.

Price spotted the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and the Sox finally scored twice in the top of the 6th to close within one at 3-2. But Price quickly gave anther run back in the bottom of the inning.

Then the Sox scored two more times in the seventh to tie things at 4-4. . . but Price gave the two runs right back in the bottom of the inning.

"Very frustrating,'' sighed Price. "It's something I talk about all the time. It's a very big deal. And it's something I feel like I've struggled with this entire year. Whenever you're going good, it's something you're doing very well. And whenever you're going bad...you get a lead, give it right back. . . that's tough.''

It also doesn't portend well for the postseason, where Price, as you may have heard, has a spotty track record.

With some strong starts in the final few weeks, he could have reached the playoffs with both momentum and confidence.

Instead, he's got one more start -- Sunday -- to straighten things out.

Ortiz? His postseason bona fides are set.

Price, meanwhile, has no such reservoir of success upon which to draw. And starts like Tuesday's only reinforce the doubts.

 

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz goes 0-for-5 in loss to Yankees

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz goes 0-for-5 in loss to Yankees

NEW YORK -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees:

 

QUOTES:

"I went 0-for-5 today, so I ain't got (anything) to talk about.'' - David Ortiz after turning around and seeing a small army of reporters waiting for him in front of his locker.

"To have a chance to clinch the division for us here (and come up sort), it's not acceptable. If my offense scores me four runs, I feel like I should be able to go out there and win.'' - David Price.

"The bottom line story to this one was (Price) mislocating within the strike zone.'' - John Farrell.

 

NOTES:

* Boston's season-best 11-game win streak was snapped with the loss.

* David Price took his first loss since Aug. 7.

* Price is 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA against the Yankees this season.

* Aaron Hill contributed his first pinch-hit homer in his career.

* Mookie Betts saw his streak of reaching base in 38 straight road games stopped.

* Dustin Pedroia posted his third straight multi-hit game.

* For the 20th time this season, Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a three-hit game.

* In his last 12 games, Andrew Benintendi has eight extra-base hits.

* Hill's pinch-hit homer was the third by the Red Sox this month.

 

STARS:

1) Tyler Austin

The rookie first baseman snapped a 4-4 tie in the seventh with a two-run homer and also added two more hits in three at-bats.

2) Gary Sanchez

The first-year catcher continues to amaze, hitting his 20th homer in only his 51st game, sending the Yanks out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning.

3) Luis Cessa

Cessa took a big step forward from his last start against the Red Sox by keeping them scoreless through the first five innings before allowing two runs in the sixth.