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Red Sox bullpen finishes off dominant ALCS

Boston relievers allow one run in 21 innings against Detroit

BOSTON -- This American League Championship Series was billed as a showdown that would be highlighted by starting pitching, and it delivered on that promise. But the Red Sox bullpen had no intention of being left out of the fun.

Boston's relievers are a major reason why the Red Sox are heading to the World Series, paced by ALCS Most Valuable Player Koji Uehara, who recorded a victory and locked down three saves -- including the final three outs of Saturday's 5-2 win over the Tigers in Game 6.

"It's a great feeling, obviously," said Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the clincher. "This is the reason we put on a jersey when you're a 12-year-old kid playing Little League. You dream about going to the World Series."

Uehara has been splendid since taking over the closer role in June, but pretty much everyone calling the Boston bullpen home -- short of Officer Steve Horgan, we suppose -- lent a helping hand during the ALCS.

Red Sox relievers allowed just one run in 21 innings (0.42 ERA), including four frames of solid work that set up Shane Victorino's instant classic of a go-ahead, seventh-inning grand slam.

"I think coming to the postseason, there were a lot of questions circling around our guys to bridge it to Koji," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And they couldn't have pitched any more consistently, more effectively."

Farrell went to the bullpen with starter Clay Buchholz guarding a 1-0 lead at 85 pitches in the sixth inning, but left-hander Franklin Morales turned in an ineffective outing, walking Prince Fielder on four pitches to load the bases.

Victor Martinez then dented the Green Monster with a two-run single, a pair of runs charged to Buchholz. Farrell pointed to the bullpen again, and his moves the rest of the night worked out.

"We were able to get it done this series," said Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman. "I don't know the numbers on it or whatever, but we threw well this series. We were able to get the ball to Koji, who is as close to automatic as you can get."

The blank innings started as Workman got Jhonny Peralta to ground into a bizarre 4-2 double play on a ball hit to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, catching Fielder falling down short of third base, tagged out by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

"I just thought we were going to get a regular double play," Workman said. "My back was turned and I didn't see what Fielder was doing. The next I know, it looked like Pedey was about to throw the ball through my chest to the plate. I just hit the dirt, trying to stay out of the way."

Workman completed 1 2/3 innings, including a pickoff of Austin Jackson in the seventh. When Workman bobbled a Torii Hunter bunt, bringing up Miguel Cabrera with two on and two out, Junichi Tazawa bailed him out once again by getting Cabrera to ground out on a fine play by shortstop Stephen Drew.

"We've got a lot of versatility down there, we've got guys that have gotten big outs and it's been a different guy every night," Breslow said. "Everybody can feel good about this from the top on down because everybody had a piece of it."

Victorino's grand slam off Jose Veras in the seventh had the Red Sox counting outs, and that came as no surprise to Workman, who was watching on TV from the clubhouse and screamed with elation when the ball cleared the left-field wall.

"When we kept it close, I thought we would [take the lead]," Workman said. "Since I've been up, we've been doing it continuously. Somebody always comes up, gets the big hit, gets the big out, whatever it may be that we need. We go out and get it done."

Breslow pitched a perfect eighth to get to Uehara in the ninth, and the 38-year-old veteran was his usual dominant self, ending Detroit's season by getting Jose Iglesias to chase an 81-mph splitter for out No. 27.

"The way I would sum it up," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "is that I thought their starters were good. I thought their bullpen was great. I certainly don't want to sound like I'm taking anything away from their starters, because I'm not. I thought their starters were good. I thought their bullpen was great."

The last out set off a celebration at Fenway that thumped into the wee hours of the night, spilling out onto Yawkey Way. The Cardinals are coming back for a rematch of the 2004 Fall Classic, and considering how this ALCS went, it's possible they may be in no hurry to get Boston's starting pitchers out of the game.

"If there's any way for a series to surpass what we just went through, we'll find out," Breslow said. "It's going to be a great series, I'm sure it's going to be a dogfight, but we're all looking forward to it."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for

Boston Red Sox, Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Brandon Workman