World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Four

Felix Doubront comes up big in Game 4 win

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These last few weeks couldn’t have been easy for Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront. With Clay Buchholz back and ready to pitch in the postseason, Doubront was sent to the pen at the end of the regular season after going 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA in his 27 starts. He didn’t want to make the move, and the Red Sox gave serious thought to leaving him off the postseason roster after he gave up five runs in 1 1/3 innings in his one relief appearance at the end of the season.

Doubront, though, was picked over Matt Thornton for the last spot in Boston’s pen. And for three weeks, he knew he was only going to pitch if things weren’t going very well. He didn’t work in the ALDS. His two ALCS appearances came with the Red Sox down 5-1 and 7-1 to the Tigers. He did, however, pitch 2 1/3 scoreless innings in those games, and the Red Sox came back and won the first of them, thanks to David Ortiz’s eighth-inning grand slam.

In the World Series, Doubront was again on the sidelines for two games, but he got the call in a tight game 3 after Jake Peavy’s early exit and pitched scoreless fifth and sixth innings. He was impressive enough that manager John Farrell bypassed Ryan Dempster and went right back to him in Game 4 tonight. This time, Doubront retired the first eight hitters he faced before giving up a single with two outs in the seventh. Craig Breslow replaced him and allowed the baserunner to come around, ruining Doubront’s perfect postseason ERA. Doubront, though, ended up with the win. He entered with the Red Sox down 1-0 and left with them up 4-1.

Doubront most likely will get a well deserved rest in Game 5 on Monday night, but in barely more than 24 hours, he’s transformed himself from guy who comes into losses to key player in the Boston pen. Of course, he’d still much rather be the key player in the rotation, but he’ll get that chance again next year.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.