BOSTON — Coming off a 14-inning loss in which they were forced to use six relievers, all for at least one full inning, the Red Sox were flirting with disaster when starter Andrew Miller was roughed up early and often Tuesday night.
Miller gave up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Kansas City Royals, putting some pressure on a relief corps that might have been stretched thin.
However, there was one man not used Monday. As has been the case all season, he was the savior.
Alfredo Aceves came on to get the last out of the fourth and then the next nine, finishing with 3 1/3 scoreless innings and picking up his 15th consecutive win in relief, a streak that has lasted for over two years. Aceves is now 20-2 in his career and continues to receive loads of praise from those whose jobs he makes that much easier.
"We got into our bullpen a lot [Monday night]," manager Terry Francona said. "We had everybody available, but if he doesn't do what he does, you're asking a lot. The ability to not just get people out but go multiple innings is so important, he's been so valuable to us."
Aceves has thrown at least two innings in eight straight appearances, all out of the bullpen. Whereas early in the year he was getting spot starts and seeing relief outings of just one or two outs, he has now become a consistent multi-inning guy, along with Matt Albers, and is thriving.
The righty has a 2.14 ERA in those eight straight extended relief outings and owns a 2.50 mark as a reliever overall.
Aceves has entered with the Red Sox ahead many times, but he's proven his value in games like Tuesday, where the team fell behind early and just needed someone to stabilize things before the high-powered offense could take over.
Because Boston scored one in the bottom of the fourth and six in the fifth, Aceves became a winner for the sixth time in seven decisions this year.
"Aceves gave us a chance to get our offense going," catcher Jason Varitek said.
It's a job unlike any other in the game. The Red Sox once had Julian Tavarez in this sort of a role, but as Francona pointed out, Tavarez appeared in more mop-up situations than Aceves, who is almost always in a tight game.
"It's a pretty unique role," Francona said.
And one in which Aceves continues to excel.