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Notes: Bullpen providing relief
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10/07/2004 9:34 PM ET
Notes: Bullpen providing relief
Sox relievers keeping Angels bats in check
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Mike Timlin and the Red Sox bullpen has allowed just one hit over 4 1/3 innings of relief. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
BOSTON -- Entering the American League Division Series, the Red Sox appeared to be at a disadvantage once the starting pitchers hit the showers. But through two games, it's been the Boston bullpen that has succeeded in providing relief.

In Tuesday's Game 1, Alan Embree came on with Troy Glaus on second and two out in the seventh. He promptly induced pinch-hitter Adam Riggs to pop out to catcher Jason Varitek in foul territory. Mike Timlin followed with two perfect innings, striking out the side in the ninth to close out the win.

Wednesday night, Timlin, Mike Myers and Keith Foulke each struck out a batter in the eighth, with Foulke staying on to record the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Timlin's success comes on the heels of his 9 2/3 scoreless innings in the 2003 playoffs.

"Timlin's been great for us," first baseman/outfielder Kevin Millar said. "They've all thrown the ball well for us."

But quality outings by starters Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez have put the bullpen in a position to succeed.

"When the starting pitching gets you deep into a game, that allows your bullpen to do their job and not more than their job," manager Terry Francona said. "We know we have a pretty good bullpen -- again, if our starters get to where they are supposed to be."

And Francona hasn't even had to call on Curtis Leskanic or regular-season starter Derek Lowe, both of whom are former closers.

"We're not even remotely afraid to go to Leskanic or Lowe," said Francona.

He's managing: Francona has heard his share of criticism this season, his first with the Red Sox -- especially during Boston's long stretch of midseason mediocrity -- but his players continue to stand by him as he makes his first foray into postseason managing.

"Tito's done a fabulous job. He's so level-headed," Millar said. "Nothing bothers him.

"He understands that this game hasn't gotten any easier since he's got done playing it."

Francona hit .274 over 10 seasons with the Expos, Cubs, Reds, Indians and Brewers, finishing his career by appearing in three games with Milwaukee in 1990.

"He's done a great job," said Varitek. "He got put in a situation where he had to learn a lot of guys. He spent a lot of time in the offseason to try and get to know this team, know some things this team needs to work on and he's done the adjustments."

In the playoffs, Francona has tried to hold fast to his philosophy, despite the added excitement surrounding each game.

"They are different because it's the best-of-five and if you lose, you go home, but you don't do silly stuff," said Francona. "I believe in what I believe in and our players are who they are. Their strengths don't change. Their weaknesses don't change. So you try to do your best to win the game. I understand that at some point you may run a pitcher out there longer, or shorter with a starter, but to this point we've pretty much done it the way we've done it all year and it's worked fine."

Francona does have at least one fault, though.

"He's a bad card player," Millar said. "He's terrible."

Francona confirmed that he lost money playing cards on the team's flight back to Boston from Anaheim.

"Like I always do," he said.

Plan of attack: As for the vaunted Anaheim relievers, the Red Sox have tried to limit their effectiveness by putting them in situations where they are unable to impact the game.

Tuesday night, they succeeded, taking a 5-1 lead before Jarrod Washburn departed and quickly tacking on two more runs charged to Washburn.

"They've got a great bullpen," Millar said. "Our job has been to keep those guys out of situations to hold us."

But Wednesday, Francisco Rodriguez relieved Bartolo Colon to start the seventh in a 3-3 game. Boston got to him for a run and then put the game away with four off Brendan Donnelly in the ninth.

So the Red Sox have been able to get to Angels starters and relievers alike. But they haven't simply been taking every pitch they can to wear out Anaheim's hurlers.

"There's somewhat of a difference maybe in being patient and wearing down pitchers," Francona said. "Being aggressive in the strike zone can also do the same thing. We have hitters like David Ortiz, Manny [Ramirez], Millar, big guys in the middle of that order, Varitek, that if you go first-pitch fastball and it's the best pitch of the at-bat, we want them to go ahead and let it fly. We want guys to hit pitches they can do some damage with. If they do that and can keep pitchers in the strike zone, because they are good hitters, they are going to run up their pitch counts. If they start chasing balls out of the zone and make outs on pitchers' pitches, you'll see quicker innings. That's pretty much with everybody.

"But because our lineup is good, if we hit the way we should, we should make pitchers work hard."

Alan Ginsberg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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