What a wild ALDS for the East huh? This was expected to be a fun series and so far, it has delivered. Let’s see what happened in the first three games.
Eduardo Rodriguez and Shan McClanahan started for their teams in game one. Rodriguez pitched 1.2 innings and gave up 2 runs. McClanahan pitched five scoreless innings followed by the bullpen keeping the Red Sox offense scoreless. Wander Franco went 2-for-4. Nelson Cruz hit a home run. Randy Arozarena stole home because why not? Kyle Schwarber and Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-4. Christian Arroyo went 2-for-3. Nick Pivetta, who was the possible starter for Game 4, pitched 4.2 innings and gave up three runs. Garrett Richards pitched one inning but it was later announced that he suffered an injury. The Rays won the first game 5-0.
RANDY IS DOING IT ALL pic.twitter.com/IvOIg994Cc — Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 8, 2021
Prior to the game, the Red Sox added Matt Barnes to the roster in the place of Richards. Richards will not be available to be added to the roster until the World Series. Shane Baz pitched 2.1 innings and gave up three runs for the Rays. Chris Sale only lasted one inning and gave up five runs in response for the Red Sox. Jordan Luplow’s only at-bat in the game was a grand slam off of Sale in the first inning.
Tanner Houck, in my opinion, the hero of the game, pitched five innings and gave up one run. J.D. Martinez returned to the lineup for game two and went 4-for-5 with a home run that broke the 5-5 tie. Bogaerts, Alex Verdugo, Enrique Hernandez, and Rafael Devers each homered. Ji-Man Choi went 2-for-3 with a home run. It felt like no matter who the Rays put on the mound, The Red Sox offense scored. David Robertson pitched a scoreless inning. The Red Sox won game 2 with a score of 14-6. It was a must-needed win for the Sox.
Sunday’s game was pretty exciting from start to finish. Nathan Eovaldi did his job in pitching five innings and gave up two runs. Drew Rasmussen pitched two innings and gave up three runs. Schwarber and Hernandez each homered. Kiké went 3-for-6. He has had eight hits in the last two games. That ties him with Derek Jeter in 2005-2006. Arroyo went 3-for-5 and Renfroe went 2-for-4. Hansel Robles gave up the tying run to the Rays in the 8th inning.
Wader Franco went 2-for-6 with a home run. Austin Meadows went 2-for-4 with a home run. Pivetta was asked to come out of the bullpen again and pitched four scoreless innings. Robertson pitched two scoreless innings. My guess is that he will not be available for game three. A strange ground-rule double ruined the Rays hope of taking the lead in extra innings. The ball hit Renfroe which then went out of play. Umpires ruled it a ground-rule double and it prevented Choi from scoring. Luis Patino pitched 1.1 innings in his postseason debut and gave up the 2-run home run to Christian Vazquez in the bottom of the 13th inning. . The Red Sox won 6-4.
Walk-off today, run tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/yEWaqpzH4m — Red Sox (@RedSox) October 11, 2021
GAME FOUR KEYS TO THE GAME
Get to Rodriguez early– Scoring runs early in the game will set the tone. Although it wasn’t the case in game 2, it leads to the next point.
Continue to add on runs every opportunity– The problem the Rays had in game 2 was that they didn’t tack on runs after taking the lead. That allowed the Red Sox offense to catch up. It isn’t easy when a pitcher is dealing like Houck was in game 2, but the Rays have shown they are capable of finding ways to score runs often. They must use that to their advantage.
Get length from the pitching– The Red Sox exposed the Rays bullpen because they forced Cash to dip into it often in games 2 and 3. This can easily tire out the bullpen as it showed in 2020 when the Yankees and Astros did this. Even if the Rays win the series, the constant bullpen use will affect the next series. The pitching needs to avoid that again. The Rays may be used to relying on the bullpen often but in the postseason, you don’t have the luxury of sending down a player to bring up a fresh arm
Force Cash to use the bullpen early and often– This worked in games 2 and 3. The Red Sox offense has to continue to put pressure on Cash to go to the bullpen often.
Starters must give length and trust the others– Eovaldi is the only starter, so far, to go 5 innings. Rodriguez has to match it or go longer. With Pivetta, not available, that make possibly Houck available to pitch in a lead or if Rodriguez can not go five innings.
Cora can’t constantly rely on regular-season starters to relieve in this postseason. He must trust Adam Ottavino, Matt Barnes, and Martin Perez at some point. It may have worked in 2018 but there is no telling it will work again this year. Getting away with it in one series is one thing but it can hurt the rest of the run eventually. Robles, Austin Davis, Ryan Brasier, and Josh Taylor are most likely available as well for game 3.
End it at home– If the series goes to a game 5 in Tropicana Field, the Red Sox’s chances to win may be slim. Chris Sale may be the starting pitcher but with his reason struggles, the Sox must end the series in Boston.
Follow Jessica Mario on Twitter @tiny86