ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox have won nine straight, their longest win streak in more than five years, and as they look to extend that stretch Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays, their bullpen has been an underappreciated part of their success.
Friday was an excellent example, as closer Craig Kimbrel and reliver Koji Uehara got the night off for rest and the bullpen still came through with four scoreless innings to make a two-run home run in the first hold up for a 2-1 victory.
"Can’t say enough of the run that entire group has been on," manager John Farrell said. "When you consider tonight we were staying away from Kimbrel and Koji. We were able to match up all the way through … They continue to come in and execute extremely well."
Brad Ziegler pitched the ninth for his fourth save with the Red Sox — and 22nd of the season — but four relievers helped get the game there. Joe Kelly pitched a scoreless sixth, Robbie Ross got two outs, Matt Barnes three and Robby Scott one in a high-leverage situation.
Boston might not need the bullpen as much Saturday, with right-hander Rick Porcello on the mound with a 21-4 record and 3.08 ERA. He’s thrown at least seven innings and allowed three runs or less in 11 straight starts, matching Cy Young (1904) and Pedro Martinez (2000) for the longest such streaks ever in a single season by a Red Sox pitcher.
His toughest challenge in his last five starts came against the Rays, who got him for six hits and three runs in seven innings in a game the Red Sox still pulled out on Aug. 29.
Not as fortunate down the stretch has been Matt Andriese, whose win last weekend at Baltimore ended a personal seven-game losing streak. Andriese has pitched well against Boston in his career — 1-1 with a 4.58 ERA, including a 2.08 ERA at Tropicana Field. His last outing against Boston was a rough one, giving up a career-high seven runs and 10 hits, including seven for extra bases, on August 29.
Rays manager Kevin Cash got a strong night from his bullpen in Friday’s loss, as four Rays relievers combined for three innigns of scoreless, two-hit relief, but that hasn’t been the norm in the final two months of the season.
The final week and a half of the season is a chance for not only the team, but for individuals to finish the season with momentum going into the offseason, like OF Mikie Mahtook, who had a home run among two hits in Friday’s 2-1 loss.
"It’s been a little bit of a different season for me," Mahtook said. "Obviously I haven’t played to my expectations or my ability. We still have a few games left, and I think I can repeat what I did last September over these last 10 games or so."