CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Bravo. That’s how you use your bullpen.
Well, maybe Thursday’s game wasn’t exactly how you draw it up. It was a little less than idea for Cleveland relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to combine for 80 pitches in the Cleveland Indians’ Game 1 victory over the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, but often, winning in the postseason is about going above and beyond.
Terry Francona’s group certainly did.
Andrew Miller entered in the top of the fifth, taking the ball from starter Trevor Bauer, who went the first 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs. But Cleveland’s offense had come up big against AL Cy Young candidate Rick Porcello, and the Indians held a two-run lead when Miller entered, set to face the Red Sox’s two, three and four-hole hitters.
40 pitches later, Miller had worked two shutout innings, giving the ball to Bryan Shaw, who allowed a solo homer to Brock Holt, but keeping things manageable until Cody Allen entered to attempt a five-out save.
Allen would match Miller’s season-high pitch total, but it was all in the name of winning. And knowing how injuries have really crippled the Indians’ starting rotation, leading on an extremely talented and productive bullpen was the smart call for the Tribe’s manager.
As for Friday’s Game 2, as Francona indicated, the Indians will cross that bridge when they get back to the ballpark. Having Corey Kluber set to start the second game of the best-of-five series certainly helps.
But instead of looking ahead to tomorrow, Cleveland opted to focus on controlling what was directly in front of them. And in the process, Francona went to the far other end of the spectrum, not only using his best relievers in a playoff game — yeah, we’re looking at you, Buck Showalter — but maximizing and leveraging them as best as possible.
Sure, David Ortiz doubled against Allen in the eighth. But anytime a club can matchup their best relief weapons against the opposing team’s best hitters, it’s important, even as early as the fifth inning.
Hitters typically only getting four or five plate appearances in a ballgame. The more of those instances which feature advantageous matchups, the better.
And on Thursday, Ortiz faced Miller and Allen in his final two at-bats.
For Cleveland, you’ll take that when you can get it and worry about the rest later. A series lead is worth it.