Peterlin: Francona Game 2 Moves Reveal Series Blueprint

CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – A good poker player is taught to never show their hand. I never took Tito for much of a gambler, but after seeing the way Game 2 unfolded, it’s safe to say he’d be lousy. Then again, I don’t think he cares, you never should if you’re playing with a stacked deck.

Josh Tomlin pitched two innings and got the win on Friday night and in doing so cemented his fate for whether or not he will make a start in this series. For fun, I’ll show you Tito’s postgame response like he doesn’t already know what route he’ll go:

We’re not ready to. There’s no reason for us to name a starter three days from now. We were just trying to win a game. And we were fortunate that we did.The one thing I do know is everybody in that room will volunteer to do something, and I think together we’ll figure it out. That’s how we always feel.

Like any good manager, the Indians skipper is using the wiggle room he affords himself in preparing ahead of time for situations like this. In an ideal world, the Indians sweep the Yankees in three games and only have to use one start from Bauer, Kluber, and Carrasco, but this world is far from ideal and the Indians may have to deal with a Game 4.

It’s not that Francona was lying, far from it, but entering the postseason suggesting Trevor Bauer would pitch Game 1 and 4 would’ve been a stretch. After using Josh Tomlin in relief Tito now faces no other true option as the answer has presented itself.

Last year only one LDS series went the distance and it stuck to the blueprint of survival baseball at its finest. The Nationals and the Dodgers went five games, and Los Angeles used Game 1 starter and ace Clayton Kershaw in the fourth game when they were facing elimination. The plan worked, and they moved onto a Game Five where the Nationals then started their Game 1 starter in Max Scherzer.

The biggest question in this whole rotational equation stemmed from this: Who would you rather have starting, a shortened rest Trevor Bauer or a full strength Tomlin? Tito made his call late in Game 2 when he put Tomlin in.

I do believe Bauer’s dominance in the series opener played a factor in Tomlin making the relief appearance. He could’ve went with Salazar after all, but Bauer wasn’t just good, he was great. According to Baseball Reference’s “Game Score” which quantifies each individual start in a system created by SABR pioneer Bill James, Bauer’s 77 for Game 1 of the postseason was his highest of the year. Three of his top six came in September. He’s clearly performing at a high rate.

Skipper Terry Francona on whether or not Bauer could pitch on short rest:

“throwing’s never been much of a hurdle for him. He’s pretty resilient. And we’ll alter his program. He’s not going to have a side day like normal, things like that. And then we’ll see when he feels like he could be available.”

This doesn’t come as a knock to Tomlin, the initial scheduled Game 4 starter, or Salazar for that matter. I think it speaks to the trust and faith Tito has in Bauer and what he has earned in performing lights out over the past two months.

More from Jonathan Peterlin | 92.3 The Fan
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