A week ago, the Red Sox didn't necessarily expect Alfredo Aceves to be the first reliever this season to appear in a game with the lead. But there he was on the mound at Fenway Park, protecting a one-run advantage against the New York Yankees.
After Aceves did his job, Boston could finally utilize their bullpen the way it had envisioned, even if the bridge to the back end was a bit unexpected (Aceves was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket earlier in the day).
Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon each threw scoreless innings against the vaunted New York Yankees attack in a 9-6 win at Fenway Park on Friday. It was a long time coming for a trio that hadn't felt what it was like to work with a lead during the team's 0-6 start.
"The way it unfolded today, you can look forward to a lot of wins coming that way," said Jenks, whose home debut with the Red Sox nearly got derailed.
Brought on to protect a 7-6 lead, Jenks immediately threw four straight balls to Mark Teixeira. He then threw two more to Alex Rodriguez, who had already homered. A visit from pitching coach Curt Young seemed to settle down Jenks, and the righty then set the tone for the final three frames.
Jenks threw the next three pitches by Rodriguez for a huge strikeout. Robinson Cano grounded to first for the second out and Nick Swisher's pop down the line in left was hauled in by Carl Crawford.
"I was just overexcited," Jenks said of the first six pitches. "First home game, new uniform, new crowd, new home fans. And I just had to step back and slow down the game. Once I did that I could stay composed, started throwing strikes and was under control."
Bard and Papelbon, veterans of the pressure of pitching in Fenway, had no such issues. Bard, who had given up five runs in his first 2 2/3 innings this year, needed 11 pitches (eight strikes) to work a 1-2-3 eighth. Papelbon then dominated in the ninth, striking out Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter and getting Teixeira to pop to center.
The threesome had to wait a full week to get lined up, but there was no shock among the ranks when the outs started piling up.
"You'll see, for the most part, if we take care of business we'll be very good down there," Bard said.
To their manager, the contrast in the game was striking, but in a mostly positive way.
"We didn't keep them off the board for five innings, that's a tough way to win," Terry Francona said. "Our bullpen came in and threw four zeroes, that's tough to do."
Papelbon's effort gives him five strikeouts in two innings pitched this season. The trio as a whole has 13 punchouts in just 8 2/3 innings. Finally, a few of them came when they were supposed to, with the Red Sox protecting a lead in the late innings.