BOSTON -- Red Sox relievers have been working well since the last week of April, well enough that one had to wonder if the majority would keep it up long enough for the rotation to get its act together.
After two quality starts have been turned in as many days, it's so far, so good. Felix Doubront led the way, and Andrew Miller, Vicente Padilla and Alfredo Aceves were perfect for the final three innings on Saturday in a 4-1 win over Cleveland, Boston's second in a row.
"It was a really nice game," manager Bobby Valentine said. "Everyone did their job. I could tell you that Cody Ross' [sixth-inning solo] home run was a little breathing room. That I think was really good.
"You still wonder when you go to the bullpen, but Andrew Miller's been fabulous, and he just continued the streak of throwing strikes with quality pitches. What more can we say about Vicente Padilla? When you're making the plays, they hit some balls hard early, and you win a game because they're right at people. I've seen, during a streak, every ball that was hit hard find the hole. Wasn't the case tonight."
The Sox (14-19) had not had a win streak for two weeks, since an April 28 victory over the White Sox. They can take three of four from the Indians with a victory on Sunday.
The fresh-faced Doubront (3-1) was impressive, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out five. A few more calls going his way might be a part of that.
"Yeah, right from the first batter of the game," Valentine said of the pitches on the corner going for strikes. "And I think the word's getting around a little. If you watch him pitch, there's so many at-bats when he has two strikes on hitters real quick ... and it's 'cause he's not afraid. I mean, he has good stuff, it's not about not being afraid. But he has good stuff, and maybe word's getting around."
"You watch the guy before you [Friday's starter, Clay Buchholz], and you see him go after guys and attack them, and you've got to be the same way," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "You can't be afraid to make contact with the strike zone."
Doubront's still not going deep into outings -- throwing 109 pitches, 66 for strikes -- but he isn't disappointed in that, saying he still put the team in a position to win.
"If I throw six innings and I've got less pitches, let's throw the seventh," Doubront said.
Miller, particularly valuable with a left-handed-heavy Indians lineup, pitched in a third consecutive game for the first time in his career and needed just 10 pitches in the seventh. Converting the tall southpaw to a reliever has brought an early return on investment -- five outings, five innings, no runs and two baserunners allowed.
"I'm enjoying it," Miller said. "It's easy to say that when you're having success. Right now I'm liking it. It's fun to come in in these situations. They've got a lot of lefties over there. So Rich [Hill] and Franklin [Morales] and myself know we're going to pitch. The expectation to pitch is fun, and so far it's been great."
Padilla pitched on back-to-back days for the second time this season, and Aceves was on his third straight day, like Miller. That could leave the Sox needing a long outing from starter Daniel Bard on Sunday.
The doubles barrage the Sox have put together at home continued, with Dustin Pedroia's near-homer off the Green Monster in the third inning plating the game's first run off Cleveland righty Zach McAllister. Pedroia's hit streak is now at 13 games, the longest active streak in the Majors.
Back in the lineup after soreness in his left heel took him out of Friday night's win early, David Ortiz doubled a batter later for a two-run lead.
McAllister was recalled on Saturday from Triple-A because the originally scheduled starter, right-hander Josh Tomlin, had soreness in the wrist of his throwing arm and went on the disabled list. The 24-year-old was charged with all of Boston's runs but was not a slouch, striking out eight with no walks in seven innings. McAllister's last mistake came in the sixth inning, on Ross' sixth homer of the season -- a blast over the Green Monster, as usual.
"I talked with [catcher Lou Marson], and told him I wanted to bounce a breaking ball," McAllister said. "I was able to do that, and he just barely fouled it. I told him [that with the] next pitch, I wanted to go fastball in. I stayed away from him that whole at-bat and in previous at-bats, too, so I thought it would be a good time to go in. Obviously, it wasn't in enough."