Instead of heading back to Houston for Game 5 at Minute Maid Park, the Boston Red Sox are headed for the golf course and have nobody to blame but themselves. Between manager John Farrell’s pointless ejection over balls and strikes in the second inning and the unnecessary use of ace Chris Sale in relief, Boston wound up costing itself both the lead and the game in a rain-soaked affair.
After the bad decisions made today, Boston has no right to be mad at anyone except themselves.
In Porcello we trust
One intelligent decision that was made, despite this being a must-win game, was starting former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello instead of going to Sale on short rest. Porcello posted a 5.93 ERA in September and a mark of 4.65 on the season, but he looked good enough on the mound today.
Porcello allowed a run to score in the first inning, but it was on a double-play by Jose Altuve and Boston answered back in the bottom half with a Xander Bogaerts solo shot. The big righty would allow another run in the second and load the bases after securing two outs but worked out of trouble without further damage and worked a scoreless third.
Porcello needed 70 pitches to get through three innings, mind you, and that likely had something to do with Boston’s decision to turn to Sale in the fourth. Just the same, Porcello was settling down and Sale should have been saved for a possible Game 5. Even if this game was a must-win, a team shouldn’t go to its ace in relief unless absolutely necessary.
Now, to be fair, Sale looked the best he had in two months in today’s appearance. He looked strong through his first four innings and given how the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead on Benintendi’s two-run home run off of Justin Verlander (another ace arm on in relief) in the fifth, it looked as though the 2017 Cy Young contender could have the chance to do his best Madison Bumgarner in Game 7 impression and bring home the win.
Instead, after tossing 65 pitches through four frames, Sale allowed a game-tying run to Alex Bregman to lead off the eighth. He would get two outs and allow one more baserunner before being relieved by Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel would walk George Springer before allowing a go-ahead RBI single to Josh Reddick, scoring Sale’s inherited runner. Houston would add another run in the ninth before ultimately winning.
That all being said, what was Boston thinking?? Misuse of pitching aside, there was no reason Farrell should have gotten himself tossed so early in the game. It’s not as though it was the ejection made famous by former New York Yankees skipper Billy Martin, who would sometimes get himself thrown out of the game for the sake of rallying his team. No, this was just a case of Farrell letting his emotions get to him in a game where his players needed him calm and collected, and getting thrown out in the second inning of a one-run game is just bad under any circumstances.
And what about the use of Sale? Yes, the lefty got shelled for seven earned runs in five innings in Game 1, but a game where it is win or go home for either team means that the best arm should be on the mound. No disrespect to Drew Pomeranz, who likely would have started Game 5 if Boston won, but he is nowhere near as strong a pitcher as Sale.
Not only that, Pomeranz lasted just two innings and gave up four earned runs in Game 2, so what was Boston’s plan if he got shelled again in Game 5? Use Sale out of the bullpen again? Turn to Doug Fister and hope for the best?
Make no bones about it, ladies and gentlemen. Boston cost themselves this game. Sale should not have even been allowed to go four innings, Porcello should have been allowed more than three and, if anything, Kimbrel should have taken the mound to start the eighth. This is playoff baseball and there is little time for gambling, particularly when one’s team trails in a series and also a potential elimination game.
Hopefully, Boston learns that lesson in time for next year.
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