Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine's words. Each game day, we will select a Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox have won two games in a row. Better yet, they've won two games in a row at home, where, for some reason, Fenway Park green has been kryptonite to their record this season.
Other nice takeaways from Saturday night include Boston holding an opponent to one run, and the rotation offering its second straight quality start.
Manager Bobby Valentine doled out praise after the game ("Everyone did their job"), but he did add a caveat.
"You still wonder when you go to the bullpen," Valentine said.
His comment was no surprise. No matter how good the bullpen gets this year, it may never do well enough to steer away from that assessment. The relief staff dismissed any real hope of support on the day it allowed the Yankees to come back from a 9-0 deficit to beat the Red Sox 15-9 at home.
That was the worst moment for the bullpen, but it wasn't an anomaly. The relief has been nerve-wracking all season, and even Alfredo Aceves made it interesting Friday night, giving up a run before closing out the 7-5 victory. On Saturday night, the relievers were perfect throughout their three innings, putting up all zeros while striking out two — but the collective sigh after the game ended was further evidence that Saturday night was the exception, not the norm.
Even if the starting pitching gets on track and the offense starts driving in the dozens of runs it could, the bullpen may always be the question mark — the albatross that keeps this team guessing even when victory seems to be sure.
The relief has had its bright moments. Aceves has emerged as a dependable closer. Andrew Miller and Vicente Padilla — as Valentine noted Saturday night — have been more than capable. But from Mark Melancon's meltdown to the recent revolving door of backup pitchers, the relief staff provides no consistent comfort.
The only answer, of course, is production. The same wondering used to happen with the rotation and offense, too. But the pitchers have started to quell concerns, and the offense has come around in the past few weeks.
The bullpen, however, still has people wondering. It has had enough bad performances to last a season.
Aceves, Miller, Padilla and the like have started to lay the groundwork toward showing they can get the job done. As they continue to be consistent, the rest of the bullpen may follow. That would then take the pressure off the rest of the team to perform. And then the results may start arriving in greater quantities than two wins in a row.
There's no shame in Valentine wondering if his relievers have it. The rest of the Red Sox must be wondering, too, whether their teammates will just end up undoing their work by giving up late leads.
The bullpen knows it needs to come through. Now it's the relievers' time to take the challenge and show everyone that they can handle their roles.