Dynamic duo in Red Sox bullpen proves key late in games
|08.16.11 at 5:40 pm ET|
With Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon controlling the back end of the Red Sox bullpen, the Sox can feel pretty safe when they have a lead in the late innings of games.
After Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Rays in the first game of a day-night doubleheader, the Red Sox are 62-2 when leading after seven innings and 63-0 when leading after eight innings. The majority of the credit goes to Bard and Papelbon.
“It is fun when you know those guys are coming in the game,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “It gives us a sense that we can breathe a little bit and just let them pitch their games. They have great stuff.”
Bard pitched a scoreless eighth inning, only needing 12 pitches and striking out two hitters in the process to earn his 28th hold of the season, which leads the American League.
After seeing his 25 scoreless appearance steak come to an end on Aug. 1, and giving up another run in his next outing, he has settled down nicely. In his last four appearances he has not allowed a hit while striking out eight over 4 2/3 innings.
Papelbon closed the game by pitching a perfect ninth, only needing 10 pitches to do so. It was Papelbon’s 28th save of the season, which is fourth in the AL. He has converted each of his last 23 save chances dating back to May 13, which is the longest such streak of his career and the second-longest save streak in the AL this year. He has only allowed two hits in his last 10 appearances.
Papelbon says repeating his delivery has been the key to his recent success.
“My delivery has been consistent and that usually happens when you are consistent and you go on a streak,” he said.
Saltalamacchia says Papelbon has done a better job of hiding the ball this season, which has also played a part in his success of late.
“He is pounding the strike zone and he worked on some stuff in spring training that has carried over,” he said. “He is hiding the ball a little better and just going after guys. His velocity has been great and he is challenging hitters.”
The Red Sox closer has also noticed an increase in his velocity and it is something he started to work on towards the end of last season.
“It is something [his velocity] I have done to keep my delivery consistent like I have been doing,” Papelbon said. “If I can do that, I am going to be able to put together scoreless innings more often than not.”
Added Papelbon: “I think all that started in August and September of last year. I kind of realized what I can do to create life and deception. I wasn’t doing that early in the season last year and I was able to figure it out and I have just carried it into this year, that’s all I have done.”
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