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Chris Sale is all set to start Game 1 at Fenway Park. If the
Boston Red Sox later need him for middle relief Robbie
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, he’s ready. Or a setup spot, sure.“I mean, it’s
postseason baseball. You have to be prepared for anything,” the All-Star lefty
said.Especially when it comes to pitching, particularly after seeing the likes
of Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and other All-Star aces
working in unusual roles during recent Octobers.Because as managers’ moves this
month have proven — some worked, some didn’t — the winning strategy might be
getting the best guy on the mound at the key moment, no matter when that
comes.“That’s what it is. You’re using your team’s talents the best way you can
to win games,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said Thursday, a day before the
Brewers host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.Sale and the
Red Sox take on the Houston Astros in the ALCS beginning Saturday
night.Relievers have accounted for 48.8 percent of innings in the playoffs so
far, topping last year’s record of 46.5 percent for the whole postseason. By
comparison, five years ago in 2013, relievers threw 35.7 percent of postseason
innings.But the remaining teams haven’t been as quick to the bullpen as the
trend might suggest.The World Series champion Astros and Los Angeles are bucking
the relief revolution movement, with the Dodgers at 30 percent bullpen usage and
Houston at 36. Interestingly http://www.twinsfanproshop.com/authentic-kyle-gibson-jersey ,
those ‘pens are also 1-2 in lowest ERA this postseason with marks under
1.00.Kershaw will start the NLCS opener for the Dodgers. He threw four scoreless
innings in middle relief in Game 7 of the World Series last year, and earned his
only big league save in the clinching game of the 2016 playoffs against
Washington.As for letting bullpens handle a bulk of the load, “If it works, it’s
great,” he said Thursday.“I’m kind of a traditionalist when it comes to
baseball. But when it comes down the postseason, you’ve got to win games,”
Kershaw said. “It’s probably tough to sustain for a full season … but definitely
makes sense for a postseason.”Even when teams have gone to the bullpen, it
hasn’t necessarily been for a traditional reliever. The Red Sox bullpen was seen
as a potential weakness this October, so rookie manager Alex Cora didn’t
hesitate to use Sale — who started Game 1 of the ALDS — for the eighth inning
this week, trying to finish off New York at Yankee Stadium.“He was in the
bullpen, but it was kind of like his day. Everybody was on board. I even shouted
to the dugout, ‘Hey, we’re all in! He’s coming in,'” Cora said.Cora also
employed former Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello to start and relieve against
the Yankees.The Brewers are the only team among the final four to use relievers
for more outs than starters. At a time when more teams are using relievers to
start for an inning or two, the Brewers went that way in their NL Division
Series opener against Colorado. Reliever Brandon Woodruff began with three
hitless innings.“Look Logan
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, it’s no secret that we’re going to use our
pitching a little differently than traditionally, than the traditionalists would
like,” Counsell said.“We know we’ve got a lot of guys, the depth of our staff is
what is the most meaningful thing for me when we kind of figure out how we do
this,” he said.Cora was Houston’s bench coach last year when Astros manager AJ
Hinch mixed and matched. Verlander and Sale started against each other in Game 1
of the ALDS, then worked opposite each other as relievers in Game 4.In Game 7 of
the ALCS versus the Yankees, Charlie Morton started for the Astros with five
shutout innings and Lance McCullers Jr. finished with four shutout frames.In
Game 7 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium, McCullers started and was pulled
in the third. Morton finished with four strong innings, while Verlander and
former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel were loose in the Houston
bullpen.Morton and Keuchel both threw simulated games Thursday, prompting a
question about whether either could relieve in the first two games at Boston.
Verlander and Gerrit Cole will start those matchups.“I know that the days of
creativity and how pitchers are being used and how I used our rotation last year
is probably why you’re asking the question,” Hinch said.“I think given the agony
that we’re going through in these bullpen decisions and the options that we have
in the ‘pen and the performance of our ‘pen and the depth of ‘pen, I see it less
likely than ever initially in this series for me having to get that creative
with our starters,” he said.Counsell played for the Arizona Diamondbacks when
they won the 2001 World Series. Imposing aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling
started five times in the seven-game win over the Yankees, with Johnson also
working once in relief.“I’m not trying to — we’re not trying to eliminate the
need for great starting pitching,” Counsell said. “I mean Tim Tebow
, Randy Johnson would be probably first in my draft list. If
you could pick a player for me to take in the series, I’d say him in a
heartbeat.”“It would be nice to have him. Our team’s different, you know, and so
we’re going to try to — and we’re trying to figure out what’s the best way for
us to put together a tough 27 outs and make it tough on them and get those outs
as fast as we can,” he said. “And so we’re considering a different way to put
that puzzle together.” Nelson Cruz has done plenty of damage against the Los
Angeles Angels in his 14-year career, and the Seattle Mariners designated hitter
will look to cause more Friday night in the third contest of the four-game
series.Cruz hit a three-run homer Thursday night in an 8-2 victory in the series
opener at Angel Stadium, the 359th homer of his career and 50th against the
Angels. Alex Rodriguez, who began his career as a shortstop with the Mariners,
is the only player with more home runs against Los Angeles (70).Seattle (80-66)
improved to 69-0 when leading after eight innings. The Oakland A’s are the only
other team in the majors unbeaten in that situation.Article continues below
...The Angels (73-74) missed a chance to climb over .500 for the first time
since Aug. 18.Cruz hit his 36th home run of the season in the fourth inning to
give the Mariners a 6-0 lead. He hit his 35th on Wednesday in a 5-4 loss to to
the visiting San Diego Padres, giving him 1,000 RBIs for his career and making
him the only player with at least 35 home runs every season since 2014.“I’ve
been playing a lot of games and it shows my routine,” he told ROOT Sports after
Thursday’s win.Cruz will also look to continue his success against Angels
starter Matt Shoemaker. Cruz is 8-for-26 in his career off the right-hander with
two home runs.Shoemaker (2-0, 3.45 ERA) is scheduled to make his third start
since coming off a five-month stay on the disabled list because of a second
forearm surgery in two years.He’s 4-4 with a 4.33 ERA in 14 career appearances
(12 starts) against the Mariners. He faced them twice last season before the
initial forearm injury ended his season in mid-June.The Mariners are hoping to
have shortstop Jean Segura back in the starting lineup after he missed the past
three games with flu-like symptoms. Segura, who won the American League Final
Vote to earn the final roster spot on the All-Star team, is fifth in the AL with
a .310 batting average.Mariners left-hander James Paxton (11-6 Jay Bruce
, 3.83) was originally scheduled to start Friday, but has a
form of pneumonia, Seattle manager Scott Servias told reporters before
Thursday’s game. Veteran right-hander Felix Hernandez also remained in Seattle
to rest his sore hamstring.The Mariners are expected to use a string of
relievers on Friday, although no pitcher had been designated to start as of
Thursday night.Mariners center fielder Mitch Haniger has led off the past three
games with a base hit, lifting Seattle’s batting average to .357 leading off
games this season, the best mark in the majors.Haniger’s first-inning double
Thursday night was his 61st extra-base hit this season. He’s the first Seattle
player with at least 60 extra-base hits in a season since Raul Ibanez had 69 in
2008.Seattle first baseman Ryon Healy, who went 0-for-3 with an RBI on Thursday
night, has been one of the team’s hottest hitters the past month. The Southern
California native is hitting .305 in the past 23 games with three home runs and
15 RBIs.Angels center fielder Mike Trout has been even hotter, hitting .369 with
seven home runs and 14 RBIs in his past 25 games. He went 2-for-3 with two
doubles Thursday night.“We hit some balls hard,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia
told reporters after the game.
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