Boston Red Sox

Atchison proving reliable with outstanding play

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Atchison proving reliable with outstanding play

Thanks to injury (Andrew Bailey) and early-season ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon), the Red Sox bullpen has been a work in progress almost from Opening Day.

When the season began, Scott Atchison was viewed a middle- or long-reliever, capable of giving the Red Sox multiple innings at a time.

"When I was putting the bullpen together," said Bobby Valentine, "the one thing I knew was that he had some length in him, that he was able to throw 45 pitches and give up a couple, three innings and I didn't really have that in anyone else. So at the beginning, that was what he was doing and when he was pitching his two-plus innings, he was getting everyone out."

Almost one-third of the way into the season, however, Atchison has been given a role of more prominence. Instead of coming into the game in the fourth or fifth inning when the Sox are trailing, he's earned the confidence of Valentine and is now viewed as more of a trusted set-up man.

"He obviously now had elevated himself," said Valentine, "to where he's a righthander I can count on to get righthanders and lefthanders out."

Case in point: on Monday, Atchison came in for the seventh, with the Sox leading by four and contributed two scoreless innings while racking up four strikeouts.

Atchison is unscored upon in his last dozen outings, covering 17 13 innings and his ERA has dipped to minuscule 0.93.

"It's been good," said Atchison of his recent run. "I'm trying not really think about what I'm doing. I'm just going out there and keeping the same approach and throwing strikes. It's been a good stretch and hopefully I'll keep it going."

Atchison isn't concerned about his role or when or how long he pitches. To him, the mission is the same.

"I feel like I can do any of those things, pitch in (different) roles," he said. "I feel like that's how they're using me -- if some righties are coming up, they bring me in. If it's the long situation, I'm the guy who's stretch out, too, so I can go out and do that. I'm just kind of ready for whatever situation. When they call, if he says me, I get ready to go."

Atchison's success has dovetailed with the improved work of the bullpen in general and the relievers have found that good outings can be contagious.

"We're doing great," said Atchison. "Everybody's throwing the ball really well. You're going to give up runs here and there. But if you hand us the lead, I feel like we're doing good; if we're behind, I feel like everybody's throwing the ball well and keeping us in the game.

"We've bonded as a group down there and everybody's comfortable that, when phone rings, if it's their turn, they're going to go out and do their job. And if they don't somebody's going to pick them up. That's kind of been our motto."

BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: What are biggest concerns about Red Sox?

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BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: What are biggest concerns about Red Sox?

1:00 - Shaughnesy, Drellich and Merloni give their leading off impressions regarding the Red Sox

4:00 - Dan Shaughnessy explains why he is still skeptical about the Red Sox team, and why he will not be able to feel confident until he sees them play in the postseason

9:00 - Does our Baseball Show crew have a problem with the Red Sox letting Chris Sale pitch the 8th inning so he could get his 300th strikeout?

15:00 - Jared Carrabis joins the Baseball Show crew to discuss what matches he likes for the Red Sox in the playoffs. 

17:00 - Jared Carrabis on how would the Red Sox match up against the Yankees in the playoffs

20:00 - How does Jared Carrabis think about the use of David Price as a relief pitcher?

Red Sox beat Reds 5-4, reduce A.L. East magic number to three

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Red Sox beat Reds 5-4, reduce A.L. East magic number to three

CINCINNATI -- Mookie Betts wasn't about to stop. Neither are the Red Sox, who are heading home with a chance to win another division title.

Betts doubled with the bases loaded to tie it in the eighth inning and dashed home from second base on an infield single, rallying the Red Sox to a 5-4 victory Sunday that moved them closer to an AL East championship.

By winning 14 of its last 17 games, Boston has left virtually no opening for the second-place New York Yankees to catch up. The Red Sox, already assured a playoff spot, completed an 8-1 road trip that put them in excellent position to win a second consecutive division crown, something they've never done.

Coupled with New York's 9-5 loss in Toronto, the Red Sox reduced their magic number to three. They lead the Yankees by five games with seven to play.

That means Fenway Park can start preparing for a potential celebration. Boston finishes the regular season at home with three games against Toronto and four vs. Houston.

"We're learning a lot about ourselves," said Doug Fister, who pitched into the sixth. "We can put ourselves in a corner early and fight back. If we need a touchdown, the boys can put up a touchdown."

Boston inched closer with more late-game flair. The Red Sox lead the majors with 11 wins when trailing after the seventh inning.

They loaded the bases against Raisel Iglesias (3-3), who had blown only one save chance all season. Betts had fouled a ball off his foot on Friday night and missed one game. His double tied it 5-all, and he sprinted home on the still-sore foot - diving headfirst into the plate - on Rafael Devers' infield single.

"I felt he had a chance to beat it, and with me running it was going to be a tough play at the plate," Betts said.

Robby Scott (2-1) got the win, and Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 39 chances. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 11 appearances.

Billy Hamilton helped the Reds go up 4-1. He tripled home a run and brought the crowd to its feet by scoring after getting caught in a rundown between first and second. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a wild throw, and Hamilton kept going when nobody covered home.

"In my whole career, that's one of the best ones, especially since I was in a rundown and just trying to get to second base and then I end up scoring," Hamilton said.

GOT THEIR BACKS

Red Sox and Reds players stood for the national anthem. Boston manager John Farrell said if any of his players decide to follow the example of other athletes and make a statement during the anthem, he'll support them. "We strive to create an environment that's inclusive," Farrell said. "We would have their back as an organization if that's the expression they chose. It's their constitutional right."

INTERLEAGUE

The Red Sox are 12-1 against the Reds all-time in the regular season and have won nine straight, their longest winning streak against any NL team since interleague play started in 1997. The Reds beat the Red Sox in seven games for the 1975 World Series championship. Overall, Boston is 16-4 in interleague play this season. The Reds are 5-15.

90 LOSSES AGAIN

The Reds reached the 90-loss mark for the third straight year. They lost 98 games in 2015 and 94 last year. It's the first time they've had three straight 90-loss seasons since 1930-34.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: INF Eduardo Nunez ran the bases before the game, his next step in recovering from a sprained knee.

Reds: Hamilton was back in the lineup after getting a day off. He's played twice since returning from a broken left thumb.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (16-5) faces Blue Jays LHP Brett Anderson (1-2) on Monday night. Pomeranz is 7-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break.

Reds: After a day off, they finish with three games in Milwaukee and three at the Chicago Cubs. Deck McGuire (0-0) makes his first major league start Tuesday night against Zach Davies (17-9).

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