For all of the talk about the magnified importance of bullpen depth during this postseason, there is one simple fact that trumps all others when it comes to the use of multiple pitchers in middle relief.
The more you choose, the more likely you are to lose.
Every bullpen move comes with the possibility that the next reliever won’t have what it takes in a given appearance, so there’s something to be said for sticking with a guy if he’s having success.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was given that choice in the seventh inning on Tuesday night and he chose wrong. Hard-throwing right-hander Pedro Baez came on into a one-run game and blew away the two batters he faced, but Roberts played match-up and brought on left-hander Alex Wood to get the final out of the inning.
Baez threw only 10 pitches and wrapped his two strikeouts around an intentional walk to J.D. Martinez. Wood threw two pitches to pinch hitter Eduardo Nunez, who lined the second one over the Green Monster in left field to break the game open.
Roberts obviously didn’t want Baez facing lefty-hitting Rafael Devers, who was having a pretty good night. He brought on Wood, who pitched mostly as a starter this season, and Boston manager Alex Cora countered with the right-handed-hitting Nunez.
The thing that makes the decision curious is Baez’s numbers against left-handed batters. He’s one of those reverse-split guys Buck Showalter likes to talk about, holding lefty hitters to a .164 combined batting average during the regular season — 82 points lower than his split against right-handed hitters.
Based on his 2018 numbers, his combination of an exploding upper-90s fastball and nasty splitter works pretty well against just about anybody.
To be fair, the ill-fated 84-mph breaking ball that busted open the game looked like it was located pretty well, but Nunez golfed it into the Monster seats and the Red Sox cruised home with Game 1, proving again that sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
Become a subscriber today to support sports commentary like this. Start getting full access to our signature journalism for just 99 cents for the first four weeks.