The relievers got another workout, but again it was worth the effort, as the Royals defeated the Boston Red Sox, 6-5, on Wednesday night while 36,681 fans filled Fenway Park.
Starter and winner Odalis Perez made it through just five innings, but the bullpen banditos -- David Riske, Jimmy Gobble, Joakim Soria and Octavio Dotel -- kept the Red Sox from crossing the plate in the last four innings.
Dotel, who got his 10th save, didn't really want to sound like he was bragging.
"Right now, I would say -- in a nice way -- that we've got to be one of the best bullpens in the American League," Dotel said.
No argument from manager Buddy Bell.
Bell has been talking about how playing at Fenway puts you on the edge of your seat. So was he edgy with the bullpen hanging onto a one-run lead for four innings?
"Yeah, but it's not quite like it used to be," Bell said, with a wide grin. "It's kind of in a good way that I'm on the edge of my seat now."
True enough, the bullpens of yesteryear, which bled runs regularly, seem a thing of the past.
On Tuesday night, starter Leo Nunez worked four innings, and the bullpen carried the rest of the load in a 9-3 win. If you're counting, that's a complete nine innings for the 'pen over two nights.
In that span the relief corps has given up just two runs -- both off Joel Peralta on Tuesday night.
The four shutout innings on Wednesday night were not without some peril. In the seventh, there were two on and two outs when Kevin Youkilis sent a wicked grounder toward right field. Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, though, made a fine stop and throw, preventing the tying run from scoring.
"I thought Grudzielanek's play was huge," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That's a game-changer for them."
Soria was on the mound for that scare and another in the eighth, when Coco Crisp's two-out drive looked as though it was going over the right-field wall.
"I'd say it was pretty close," right fielder Mark Teahen said. "About the middle of the wall."
The ball clunked off the wall, and Crisp had a triple. But he stayed at third as Soria retired Julio Lugo and extended his personal scoreless streak to 19 1/3 innings.
The Royals won the game with a four-run fifth inning that gave them a 6-4 lead against Boston right-hander Julian Tavarez. It began with a one-out bunt single by David DeJesus, who had been 1-for-23 on the trip.
There had been some dugout discussion on Tavarez. The scuttlebutt was that he had trouble making a throw to first base. Odd thing for a guy who blazes strikes to home plate. But it's a crazy game.
"He just can't throw the ball to first base," DeJesus said. "He'll either throw it in the ground or roll it or try to underhand it."
So DeJesus bunted, hoping that Tavarez would field the ball. But the pitcher wanted no part of it. He squatted on the mound and let catcher Jason Varitek make the play; DeJesus was safe.
Grudzielanek drove home DeJesus with a double that rebounded off the Green Monster and past left fielder Manny Ramirez. Third baseman Mike Lowell booted Teahen's bouncer, and Billy Butler lined a double to left-center field for two runs.
"I was just looking for something to drive," Butler said. "I mean, there were guys in scoring position."
After an out, Alex Gordon singled in Butler for a 6-4 lead.
And that, despite Ramirez's blast into the center-field seats off Perez in the fifth, was enough.
Despite going just five innings, Perez got his fifth victory.
"Sometimes you go six or seven innings and give up one run and you lose or have no decision," Perez said. "I threw my five, we were able to score six, and the bullpen took care of business."
And on Thursday they can shut down the business and take a day off.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less