Red Sox relievers put on a show in loss

Red Sox relievers put on a show in loss
April 6, 2014, 2:45 am
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Chris Capuano made his debut at Fenway Park a memorable one, striking out four in two innings.

(USA Today Sports Images)

BOSTON -- Little more than 24 hours after the Red Sox bullpen allowed four runs in the ninth inning to lose their home opener to the Brewers, Boston's relievers did an about-face.

Once Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz was lifted from Saturday night's game after allowing 13 hits and six earned runs in 4.1 innings, the game was handed to the arms beyond the wall in right field.

Six different relievers responded with 6.2 innings of strong work, allowing six hits, striking out 15, and allowing one run -- the game-winner in the top of the eleventh inning that eventually made the final score, 7-6.

Despite the loss, the work of Boston's bullpen -- which on Saturday featured Chris Capuano, Brandon Workman, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Burke Badenhop and Andrew Miller -- was not lost on its manager.

"Our bullpen saved us tonight," John Farrell said. "The number of innings they had to pitch tonight, stressful pitches -- Tazawa, Workman, Capuano, all did an outstanding job."

With just three relievers remaining in the top of the eleventh inning, Farrell chose Badenhop to continue to keep the Brewers off the scoreboard. He allowed back-to-back doubles to Khris Davis and Logan Schafer to give Milwaukee the lead.

"Even though Burke had pitched two innings yesterday," Farrell said, "it felt like he was the one guy with some sink and some action that could put the ball on the ground. Double the other way, another double the other way, and that's the difference in the ballgame. We were just kind of pressed late in that 11th inning."

The only reason they even made it that far was because of the pen's sterling work.

Capuano, a converted starting pitcher, admitted he is still getting accustomed to the adrenaline spike that comes with entering a close game as a reliever, but he handled his moment Saturday as though it's how he's made his career.

With men on first and third and one out in the fifth, he retired the next two batters to get the Sox out of the jam.

He explained that he could feel his emotions coming out as he came off the mound.

"Close game right there," he said. "Hoping to kind of give us a lift and get us going there. I was pumped up to get out of there."

Capuano credits his teammates and the Sox staff for making his transition into the bullpen a smooth one.

"I don't have a ton of experience out there," Capuano said. "I'm still learning everyday, learning how to handle that routine. These guys here, the staff and the other players have done a great job kind of helping me along."

His teammates, in turn, know he should get the credit for the results he's getting. He finished Saturday's game with two innings pitched, four strikeouts and no runs.

"I think Cap's mostly been a starter, but jeez he's been incredible so far," said Miller. "I think he's taken to it pretty well. Sky's the limit. I think he's possibly a starter if we need one, but if he's out there with us, he can certainly carry his weight."

Making Capuano even more excited for his Fenway Park debut, as a product of West Springfield, Mass., it was the realization of a lifelong dream to pitch for his local big league team.

"It was great," he said with a smile. "It was fun to run in and out of that bullpen. Watch so many there growing up. It was fun to come in and get out of that situation."

Workman came on next and was equally clean in his outing. He tidied up two base runners left behind by Capuano in the sixth by striking out the first two hitters he faced.

Uehara came on in the ninth and had a classic Ueharian performance. He struck out the first two hitters he saw on six pitches. When home plate umpire Tim Welke called a ball when Uehara pitched to Schafer with two outs, Fenway was incredulous.

Uehara ended up striking out Schafer on seven pitches.

Tazawa escaped a bases-loaded jam after a 28-pitch tenth inning and then came Badenhop.

"The 3-2 pitch to Davis was just kind of up," Badenhop said. "The pitch to Schafer, I was behind in the count to both of them . . . By no means were they laced or anything like that. But at the same point, it's the eleventh inning. You gotta be on top of your game so things like that don't happen and that wasn't me tonight."

Though the bullpen couldn't quite hold long enough for the Red Sox to scratch together another run, it was an impressive performance on a night when the temperature dipped down into the 30s.

"It stinks," Miller said of the weather. "But the other guys gotta play in it too. I think ideally we all wanna play in 72 degree weather. Guys have their different preferences, but I doubt you're gonna find anyone that says '39 degrees -- whatever.'

"And you can tell me it's 39 but it didnt feel like 39 out there. It felt colder to me,. It is what it is. That's just the reality, particularly playing up here at the beginning of the year and hopefully the end of the year. Hopefully you play long enough that you get to October like these guys did last year and have to deal with it again, but it's just reality.

"The hitters have to deal with it, the other team's pitchers have to deal with it. You have to manage it however you can. Guys have three, four jackets on, all huddled up against the propane heater all game. It's not ideal, but it's just reality."

And as the weather warms, the bullpen hopes that it will as well. Though a performance like Saturday's will be hard to improve on.

"It's interesting because we'll start to gel more," Badenhop said. "That was the first time we've had to cover a ton of innings and guys did awesome. You wanna keep up. Keep up or you'll get left behind.

"It's just awesome. We got a lot of different looks, a lot of different personalities, a lot of different languages spoken out there. I think we've got the makings hopefully of a very good pen."