Taking starting pitchers out of the game early has become an unlikely trademark of the Red Sox’s postseason. And it’s not only happening when stars like Chris Sale or Eduardo Rodriguez are off their game and need to come out after an inning or two, but also in instances like Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, when Nick Pivetta was pulled after dealing for five consecutive innings.
Sure, there was a lot of other stuff going on in Game 4 — the Red Sox turned to Martín Pérez as they trailed 3-2 with the bases loaded in the ninth inning of an eventual 9-2 loss, and umpire Laz Diaz drew the ire of pretty much everyone for some questionable calls all night long.
But the question remains – why did the Red Sox send Pivetta packing?
Red Sox manager Alex Cora explained the decision to reporters prior to Wednesday’s Game 5 at Fenway Park.
“So it’s something about October. I always say it. It’s different. It’s different,” Cora said, as transcribed by ASAP Sports. ‘The off-days really help you to be creative and be aggressive. Like yesterday, somebody asked me about Nick, right? Oh, you don’t want him to go through the lineup three times? No. It’s just the lane that we had, it was good for (Josh Taylor.) Lefty, righty, lefty. You start managing that way knowing that you have (Garrett Whitlock), and you have one inning with (Nathan Eovaldi), you know?
“Hey, man, we all want the starter to go seven. We would love that,” Cora continued. “It’s a lot easier for a manager and for the pitching coach and for everybody else to navigate a game that way, but obviously, the circumstances, the urgency, knowing that if you win four games, you advance, it pushes you to be creative, to be aggressive, and try to get or maximize every matchup.”
Mixing things up in such high-leverage situations certainly seems smart, though it didn’t work out for the Red Sox in Game 4. We’ll see how it plays out in Game 5 against the Houston Astros on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 5:08 p.m. ET.