The Boston Red Sox’s bullpen was the team’s biggest question mark entering the 2018 playoffs.
Game 1 of the American League Division Series did little to quiet those questions.
Boston’s bullpen gave up two runs in 3 2/3 innings Friday at Fenway Park, but the Red Sox were able to hang out to grab a win over the New York Yankees at Fenway Park.
After Chris Sale tossed 5 1/3 solid innings, the bullpen entered and made sure no one took a breath at Fenway for the next two hours.
Ryan Brasier allowed two inherited runners to score before giving way to Brandon Workman. The right-hander wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, but couldn’t record an out in the seventh, giving up two singles before departing. Matt Barnes was erratic during his inning of work, allowing an inherited runner to score and loading the bases before tight roping out of it.
With Boston’s key bullpen pieces scuffling, manager Alex Cora elected to call on Game 3 starter Rick Porcello in the eighth inning.
And it saved the game.
The right-hander steadied the Sox’s bullpen, getting two quick outs before leaving after surrendering an infield single to Gleyber Torres. Closer Craig Kimbrel gave up a run, but recorded the final four outs of the game.
And more importantly 1-0 Boston.
Cora knows it’s got to be all hands on deck every game to win the World Series, and that approach was on full display when he went to the 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner in the eighth.
“The one thing I learned last year was, it takes 25, 27 guys to do it, regardless of their roles,” Cora said after the win. “In a perfect world, starter goes six, you’ve got the seventh-inning guy, eighth-inning guy, ninth-inning guy and you move on, but to get 27 outs at this stage right now is very difficult and sometimes you have to go to Plan B or Plan C.”
So, how far down the contingency list was bringing in your likely Game 3 starter in the eighth inning? Not as far down as you might think.
“I might say, C-and-a-half,” Cora said laughing.
It only was Porcello’s second appearance out of the bullpen since 2014, with the other coming in Game 1 of last year’s ALDS against the Houston Astros. The right-hander threw just 15 pitches in his 2/3 of an inning of work, but Cora acknowledged that he is unsure if that will push Porcello back to Game 4 or if he still will go in Game 3.
But those are questions for another day.
All that mattered Friday was the Red Sox avoiding the fate they’d suffered the past two Octobers, falling into an 0-1 hole. And they have Porcello to thank for it.
Here are more notes from Red Sox-Yankees Game 1:
— Cora noted that he also had to go to Porcello because Steven Wright was unavailable due to pain in his knee. The knuckleballer will get an MRI, but Cora won’t know if he needs to make a roster move until Saturday.
— J.D. Martinez got the scoring started with a three-run home run in the first off J.A. Happ, and the Sox slugger noted how important his blast was in settling everyone in.
“It obviously was important to get that lead right away,” Martinez said. “I think it kind of took a little pressure off everyone, you know, heading into the playoffs, adrenaline is high, tensions are going, stuff like that. I think just giving (Chris Sale) that lead, being able to just settle in, go out there and pitch, I think it just helped relax everybody.”
— In the Red Sox’s previous seven playoff games, starters had allowed 28 runs in 23 innings. On Friday, Sale allowed two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings and cruised through most of his outing before running into some trouble in the sixth. The left-hander looked like the ace that dominated for the first four months of the season before landing on the disabled list.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images