The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
It's All Hands on Deck for Pitchers in the Post-Season

Nathan Eovaldi’s performance in Game 3 of the World Series fell only one pitch short of outstanding, especially considering that he also pitched in Games 1 and 2.  The only blemish in his 97-pitch relief outing was a home run given up to Max Muncy in the 18th inning of the longest game in World Series history.  He had held the Dodgers scoreless since the 12th inning.  Normally, he would have started Game 4 the next day, but he was pressed into service when Game 3 turned into a marathon game.

Eovaldi is the Number 4 starter in the Red Sox rotation after Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello, but he’s not the only starter doing extra duty during the post-season.  Price also had a brief appearance in Game 3.

All of the post-season teams’ relief pitchers are getting extensive workouts, too.  During the American League and National League championship series involving 12 games altogether (5 ALCS and 7 NLCS), there were only five instances where a team used four or less pitchers.  In the two series, five different starting pitchers also made relief appearances.

During the regular season, “bullpenning” has become a mainstream strategy for use of the pitching staff.  Starters are being labelled “openers” by some teams, with the expectation that they only need to get through an opponent’s lineup once.  Then they turn the game over to the bullpen where right-lefty matchups are being managed, often resulting in five or six relief pitchers being used by each team.

Post-season games are following suit, except that the starters are also being pressed into relief service, while relievers like the Red Sox’s Joe Kelly and Milwaukee’s Josh Hader were seemingly making appearances every game.

Elimination games in the post-season are usually the situations when practically every pitcher, irrespective of when they last pitched and how many innings they pitched, has to be ready when called upon in close games.  Managers figure there’s no sense in holding back their best pitchers in these do-or-die situations.

Two of the more memorable World Series, 2001 and 2014, involved aces who were used to secure Game 7 victories for their teams in uncharacteristic reliever roles.  Hall of Famer Randy Johnson pitched the last 1 1/3 innings of the 2001 World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks to defeat the New York Yankees.  He had previously won Games 2 and 6.  After winning Games 1 and 5 of the 2014 World Series against the Kansas City Royals, Madison Bumgarner pitched the last five innings of Game 7 for the San Francisco Giants in their win over Kansas City.

On one of the recent World Series pre-game shows, studio analyst Pedro Martinez offered the following advice:  “Every pitcher on the team should come to the ballpark with his cleats on, ready to pitch.”  Indeed, that’s been the state of thinking by the various managers during the post-season.

 

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