The Red Sox took game 1 of the ALDS on Friday, beating the Yankees 5-4 at Fenway Park. I am, admittedly bias, but Boston really did themselves a favor by holding on to that lead.
There were a lot of questions around Chris Sale’s velocity, and he certainly proved those people wrong in a hurry. Sale threw 5.1 brilliant innings, allowing 2 runs, walking 2 and carving through 8 batters like an absolute lawn mower.
Then came the Red Sox bullpen….
I’ve been concerned all year about their bullpen. The funny part about it is that they haven’t even really needed to rely on the bullpen all season, due to the fact that they have outscored every opponent by at least 50 runs. Ok, so its not 50….Boston finished the season with a +229 run differential, only second behind the Astros at +263.
Dave Dombroski claimed at the MLB Winter Meetings that the Red Sox bullpen depth is fine and that they would look to Carson Smith to help in that area. He was pressed about having a backup plan and he was confident that the Red Sox were fine in that area, what with Tyler Thornburg coming back from injury and Carson Smith finally ready to contribute to the team.
Lo and behold, Carson Smith hurts himself throwing a glove too hard at the ground after a bad outing and they’re now having to rely on Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree to keep things tight long enough to hand things over to Kimbrel for the 4 out save.
During the game last night, the Red Sox loaded the bases in two separate innings. The Yankees capitalized but not like they could have. Alex Cora stuck with Ryan Braiser when he issued an immediate walk. He stuck with Brandon Workman when he walked a guy and proceeded to give up a run. Matt Barnes started out by walking another batter, but struck the next guy out to end the inning.
Alex Cora played this thing cool as a cucumber. He went to several different pitchers and it didn’t work out. He relied on what the analytics say about specific pitchers facing specific batters who have specific tendencies in big situations. He didn’t come close to wavering from the plan.
Throughout this whole mess of hysteria, loading the bases and the like, Rick Porcello was warming in the bullpen. Cora was surely going to stop any bleeding, no matter what it took. Porcello, who is supposed to start Game 3 of this series, came in to the game, pitched 0.2 innings before handing things to Kimbrel for the 4 out save.
Everyone is worried about Porcello pitching Game 3 on “short rest”. Well guess what, Porcello threw 15 total pitches, 9 for strikes. And guess what else Porcello would typically do a few days leading up to his start….he would throw a bullpen session. And, more than likely, he would throw more than 15 pitches.
Alex Cora is playing a game of chess while most every other team in the league is playing checkers.
Think about it…He was never concerned. They’ve run this scenario thousands of times. It just takes a set to actually apply the calculations when you’re playing the Yankees in the ALDS for the first time since 2004.