Red Sox manager John Farrell allowed Clay Buchholz to give up five runs to the Tigers in Sunday’s ALCS Game 2, only to be bailed out by one swing from David Ortiz’s bat. On Wednesday, there was no such rescue after Jake Peavy was allowed to surrender seven runs in three-plus innings in what turned out to be a 7-3 loss.
The score suggests the Red Sox never really got back into the game, but things could have turned out a lot differently. Boston ended up outhitting Detroit 12-9. The Red Sox had four extra-base hits to the Tigers’ two (none of the six overall were homers).
What really undid Peavy was the three walks in a span of four batters in the second. The last of those, a four-pitch walk to an ice-cold Austin Jackson, forced in a run. The Red Sox could have minimized the damage from there had Dustin Pedroia not muffed a double-play ball. They didn’t, and Peavy gave up two more hits, making it 5-0. The remaining two runs scored in the fourth.
After Peavy departed, the bullpen, stellar all month to date, combined to throw five scoreless innings. The group has allowed a total of two runs in 24 innings, both of those coming in the lone loss to the Rays in the ALDS.
With ex-starters Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster, plus another long guy in Brandon Workman, available in the pen, there just wasn’t any reason to stick with Peavy as long as Farrell did. This isn’t the regular season, when a team may play 10 games in 10 days. It’s the postseason: anything goes. Doubront, Dempster and Workman had combined to throw a total of four innings in the past two weeks. They were all ready, and all capable of throwing multiple innings.
Unless it’s Clayton Kershaw or Adam Wainwright we’re dealing with, in the postseason it’s just not worth sticking with a struggling starter in the hopes he’ll turn it around the second or third time through the order. Sure, it can happen, but the relievers are still better bets. If Farrell proves so passive once the ALCS shifts back to Fenway Park, it could cost his team a World Series trip.