5

Red Sox have power arms in bullpen, but need to find right mix

It’s a best-of-three American League Division Series now for the Boston Red Sox, and they’re going to have steal a game in enemy territory or see their 108-win season end with a first-round exit and hear 50,000 Yankees fans singing “New York, New York” to Aaron Judge’s boombox.

To avoid that heartache, the much-maligned Boston bullpen will have to deliver some big outs, for as much as manager Alex Cora would like to ride his starting rotation, this is postseason baseball 2018 and that means plenty of relievers pitching plenty of key innings.

Cora already has turned to his bullpen for some heavy workloads in the first two games. Chris Sale went 5⅓ innings in the first game, and Cora used five relievers to get the final 11 outs, including a two-out appearance from starter Rick Porcello. After David Price sucked the life out of Fenway Park in Game 2, the bullpen had to throw 7⅓ innings. Overall, the pen threw 89 pitches in Game 1 and 123 pitches in Game 2.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

That certainly wasn’t the preferred plan heading into the series.5

“We work differently than other teams,” Cora had said prior to the first game. “We relied on our starters throughout the season. They carry us. We felt that on a nightly basis they were going to give us a chance to win — either five innings, six innings, whatever. They were very consistent about it.”

The bullpen finished ninth in the majors with a 3.72 ERA but struggled the final two months, as its ERA rose to 4.34 ERA, 20th in the majors. Matt Barnes, who had emerged as the team’s top setup reliever, pitched sparingly over the final month with inflammation in his hip, although he is back now. The depth was affected, however, when Steven Wright reinjured his knee prior to Game 1 and was later removed from the roster, replaced by Heath Hembree. Wright had pitched his way into a key role with a strong September, when he allowed two runs in 13⅔ innings.

One thing Cora isn’t concerned about — at least not yet — is a fatigue factor for his relievers.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“We’ve been taking care of them for the last month. That was the luxury of having a big lead in the division. So their workload the last month has been very, very low,” he said prior to Game 2. “You have studies and you talk to people and all this cool stuff that they do upstairs. And we feel that right now they are ready to go. If they have to pitch like Brandon Morrow last year in the World Series [when Morrow pitched in all seven games], they’re all-in, they’ll pitch five games.”

Ryan Brasier and Brandon Workman appeared in both of the first two games. After wobbling with his command in a 15-pitch outing in Game 1, Brasier was sharper in Game 2, striking out the side in his one inning. That included a pumped-up whiff of Gary Sanchez, as Brasier had motioned to Sanchez to get back in the batter’s box after the Yankees catcher had stepped out before three straight pitches.