What weakness? Sox bullpen shines vs. Rays

What weakness? Sox bullpen shines vs. Rays
October 9, 2013, 2:45 am
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- When the post-season began, the Red Sox were viewed as a team without many weaknesses.
      
Their lineup led the majors in runs scored, the defense was second in defensive efficiency and their starters were experienced and dependable.
      
If the team was vulnerable, the thinking went, it was in its set-up relief. Closer Koji Uehara wasn't a problem, but getting to him could be one.
      
So much for conventional wisdom.
      
The bullpen combined for 11 innings over the course of four games and allowed just two runs. One of those runs, improbably, was given up by Uehara, previously viewed as virtually unhittable.
      
And in the Game 4 clincher on Tuesday night, the relief was almost perfect: Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Uehara combined for 3 1/3 innings and allowed exactly one baserunner -- and that came on an infield hit.
      
Breslow, in particular, was dominant. Taking over for starter Jake Peavy in the sixth, he fanned James Loney with two runners on for the final out of the inning.
      
In the seventh, he struck out the side, fanning Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings, the middle-third of the Tampa Bay order.
      
After Breslow came out to start the eighth, beginning his third inning, he got Delmon Young on a groundout before allowing a single to short by Yunel Escobar.
      
"Craig Breslow's been an unheralded hero on this team," said John Farrell. "He's been extremely dependable. Tonight was a prime example of what he's done for us -- righthanders, lefthanders, it doesn't matter."
      
Tazawa then entered and fanned pinch-hitter Matt Joyce before Uehara got the final four outs, two by stirkeouts.
      
The final tally: 11 batters faced, eight strikeouts recorded, one baserunner allowed.
      
"Skip went with the matchups and it paid off," said catcher David Ross. "The bullpen was amazing."
      
The same bullpen, of course, which looked like the team's Achilles heel a week ago.
      
"I understand that," said Ross. "If you're going to find a weakness in this team, you can point to that. But I don't see it as a weakness. Our manager knows how to use those guys, which is a plus for us."
       
Farrell had given a quick hook to starter Jake Peavy, who had allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings. Farrell feared that James Loney -- 10-for-31 in his career off Peavy -- was the wrong man for his starter to matchup with a baserunner on first and began his bullpen machinations.
      
Ten outs remained and from there, the bridge to Uehara looked very far away.
      
"I didn't know that we'd be running Breslow for the start of a third inning," joked Farrell. "But at this time of year, our starters realize the value of every out, of every matchup. And we move on."
      
And finally, there was Uehara, who had given up the two-out, game-winning, walkoff homer to Jose Laboton in the ninth in Game 3 that had given the Rays life and given the Red Sox pause.
      
But Uehara reverted to his previously dominant self, retiring each of the four hitters he faced, seemingly with ease.
      
"The guy's been amazing for us," said Ross. "He's special person and a special pitcher for us this year."