BOSTON -- When the Red Sox tripped over themselves en route to a 1-5 start to their season, the bullpen was a big part of the problem.
So perhaps it shouldn't come as a major surprise that the same bullpen has been part of the solution now that the team is on a modest three-game winning streak.
With Sox starters doing a better job taking the team deeper into games -- Josh Beckett gave them eight in the home opener Monday and Clay Buchholz righted things after a shaky first on Saturday to get through the seventh -- the bullpen has had a lighter workload and pitched far better.
In the last three wins, Boston relievers have thrown seven innings and allowed just one run. And that run was a meaningless solo homer off Mark Melancon Friday when the Sox enjoyed an 11-run cushion.
On Sunday, Felix Doubront seemed to hit a wall of sorts in the fifth, tagged for three runs. Somewhat surprisingly, Doubront came back out for the sixth and immediately gave up a solo homer to Luke Scott, tying the game.
That's where the bullpen stepped in. Scott Atchison allowed an infield single and walk before recording a strikeout of Chris Gimenez, creating a mess of sorts for Vicente Padilla.
But Padilla responded, striking out Desmond Jennings and retiring Carlos Pena for the final out, stranding both inherited runners.
"It was a good situation (to get out of)," said Padilla. "I used my pitches and used my fastball to get ahead of hitters. I felt good."
Padilla then came back and contributed another scoreless inning before handing things over to Franklin Morales (one inning, two hits allowed) and Alfredo Aceves (perfect ninth).
When the Sox went ahead in the bottom of the sixth on David Ortiz's run-scoring double, Padilla had himself his first win in relief in more than a decade, dating back to June 15, 2001.
Over his last two outings, Padilla has five strikeouts in his last 5 23 innings and seems to have settled into a multi-inning middle man role.
"They're putting me in big situations," said Padilla, "and it feels good to help the team win."
Morales has been the team's most reliable reliever since the start of the season and is unscored upon over four appearances. In the past, Morales has struggled with his control at times, but in 4 23 innings to date, he has yet to issue a walk this year.
Aceves, who was on the mound when the Tigers scored the winning run on Opening Day then was guilty of a blown save two days later, has found himself of late.
In his last three appearances, he has two saves and and four strikeouts in his last four innings and has not alloweed a baserunner in that span.
"I'm confident in the guys that are coming out of the bullpen," said Bobby Valentine. "They're pitching great. Vicente, Morales and Aceves look like they're setting up pretty nicely...I like what I see."