Bullpen vital in Red Sox' resurgence

Bullpen vital in Red Sox' resurgence
May 18, 2012, 5:51 am
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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."