Morales key to victory in unheralded role

Morales key to victory in unheralded role
August 3, 2011, 6:40 am
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By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Boston Red Sox bullpen guys not named Bard and Papelbon can sometimes get a little overlooked in the day-to-day business of the baseball team.

The hard throwers get much of the attention, and understandably so with the high 90s heat, dozens of saves and holds and little bit of bullpen swagger needed to get the job done in pressure situations.

True to form Sox lefty Franklin Morales didnt get the win, the save, or anything else statistically to show for Bostons 3-2 walk-off win sparked by Jacoby Ellsburys ninth inning single up the middle. But the hard-throwing southpaw was one of the biggest keys to victory when he held down the Cleveland Indians offense in the seventh and eighth innings following six frames from starter Josh Beckett.

He was extremely big," Terry Francona said. "He goes out and gives two innings, and he was nice and cleanly efficient with his pitches so we could send him out there for the second inning. He pitches well and were not scoring many runs, so he sets it up that we can with Papelbon in the ninth. The way our pitching performed set it up so that our offense could get going for the walk-off win.

Morales dropped his ERA under 4.00 for the season with his two innings of shutdown ball, and said that his concentration has been much better recently as the steady work has sharpened him in the pen. The Venezuelan hurler has fanned nine hitters in last 6 23 innings for the Sox a stretch that includes six appearances in an 11-day span thats helped Morales enter into a happy zone of throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters and preying on people with his renewed curveball.

You know what? I felt great and I just tried to go out there and make all my pitches. Thats what I do, said Morales. I tried to have good concentration on the mound, and throw all my first pitches for strikes.

I started to throw curveball more in the last couple of weeks, and I feel great. Ill pitch in any situation that Tito feels comfortable putting me in and Im just going to do what I can to help the team win.

It was those two scoreless innings of relief with Morales allowing only a single hit and fanning three Tribe hitters that held everything in check for the bottom of the ninth inning Boston heroics. Morales hasnt allowed a run in 12 of 14 appearances since coming off the 15-day disabled list with a left forearm strain on June 28, but pitcher and manager both agreed Tuesday nights stint was his finest yet in a Red Sox uniform.

Everything was based off Morales command of the curveball and mixed in perfectly with the considerable heat hes already bringing to the table from the left side and the southpaw executed flawlessly.

He had good command of his curveball, so he was able to mix that in pretty much anytime that he wanted to, said Jason Varitek. I asked him to elevate some balls and he elevated them. I asked him to go down with some balls and he was able to do that too. He pitched well.

Morales may have a 0-0 record on the season and no saves for the Sox headed into the baseball stretch month of August, but its nights like Tuesday night that reveal just how valuable the veteran left-hander has been for a Sox ballclub that didnt feel the need to pick up any bullpen help at the trade deadline.

With Morales and the rest of the unheralded bullpen guys quickly and quietly going about their work, there simply wasnt the need.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs