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No Bauer, no problem: Indians’ bullpen carrying club into the World Series

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The Indians’ bullpen did yeoman’s work on Monday night in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, recording 25 of 27 total outs in stellar fashion. Starter Trevor Bauer could only last two-thirds of an inning as the cut on his pinkie finger opened up, forcing home plate umpire Brian Gorman to instruct manager Terry Francona to take him out of the ballgame.

From there, Dan Otero, Jeff Manship, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller combined for 8 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out eight. In particular, the back end of Shaw, Allen, and Miller combined for 14 outs with seven strikeouts and a walk while yielding just three hits.

Let’s add to that the bullpen’s Game 1 and 2 performances. In Game 1, Andrew Miller famously got five outs on five strikeouts while Cody Allen pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. In Game 2, Shaw got one out, Miller got six with five strikeouts, and Allen struck out two in the ninth for another save. And let’s then add in the bullpen’s stellar performance in the ALDS against the Red Sox.

Here’s a list of each relief performance in the postseason thus far for the Indians:

Name IP H R ER BB SO HR
Miller 2 1 0 0 1 4 0
Shaw 2/3 1 1 1 0 0 1
Allen 1 2/3 2 0 0 0 4 0
Otero 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Shaw 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Miller 2 1 0 0 1 3 0
Shaw 2/3 1 1 1 0 1 0
Allen 1 1/3 2 0 0 2 1 0
Miller 1 2/3 1 0 0 0 5 0
Allen 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
Shaw 1/3 0 0 0 0 0 0
Miller 2 0 0 0 0 5 0
Allen 1 0 0 0 0 2 0
Otero 1 1/3 2 1 1 0 0 1
Manship 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 1 0
McAllister 1 1 1 1 0 0 0
Shaw 1 2/3 2 0 0 0 2 0
Allen 1 2/3 0 0 0 1 2 0
Miller 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 3 0
TOTAL 24 2/3 16 4 4 5 34 2

That’s a 1.46 ERA with a 12.4 K/9 and a 1.82 BB/9. Also note that in 12 of 19 appearances, manager Terry Francona asked a reliever to get more than three outs.

Here’s the totals for each reliever.

Name IP  ER  BB  SO  HR 
Miller 9 4 0 0 2 20 0
Allen 6 2/3 4 0 0 3 10 0
Shaw 4 1/3 4 2 2 0 3 1
Otero 2 1/3 2 1 1 0 0 1
Manship 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 1 0
McAllister 1 1 1 1 0 0 0
TOTAL 24 2/3 16 4 4 5 34 2

The importance of the Indians’ bullpen is underscored by the fact that the offense has scored only eight total runs in three games in the ALCS. They scored 15 runs in three games against the Red Sox.

The narrative following the World Series appearance by the Royals in 2014 followed by their championship last year is that a good back of the bullpen is crucial to postseason success. That’s true, but it goes deeper than that. Not only must a team have an elite bullpen, but a manger who can adeptly manage that bullpen. Francona has been doing just that for the Indians this October.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Indians will go for the ALCS sweep of the Blue Jays. Corey Kluber will start on short rest. While he’s been terrific in the playoffs thus far, it would not be surprising if Francona had to call on his bullpen for some important innings once again to punch their ticket to the World Series.

The Astros continue to refuse to take responsibility for the Taubman Affair

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I’m calling it the “Taubman Affair” because writing “the incident in which a top front office executive — Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman — taunted a reporter for her past opposition to the team acquiring a domestic abuser, after which the team lied, aggressively about it, accusing another reporter of fabricating a story, then admitted that they lied but made no apology for smearing the reporter” is too unwieldy for a headline.

If you need catching up on it, though, you can read this, this or this.

The latest on it all: yesterday, after walking back their angry denial that the incident ever occurred and admitting that, yes, Taubman did in fact gleefully and profanely target a reporter for taunting, the team basically went silent and let Game 1 unfold.

Today General Manager Jeff Luhnow went on a team-friendly radio station (i.e. the station that broadcasts Astros games). In the entire segment he was asked only one question about it: “Your thoughts on the SI article, Jeff.” Luhnow said that he would withhold comment, but apologized to “everybody involved,” including the fans and the players, saying “this situation should have never happened.” You can listen to the entire segment here.

He did not, however, make any specific mention of what “this situation” was. Nor did he acknowledge that, actually, it’s at least two “situations:” (1) the initial behavior of Taubman; and (2) Monday night’s team-sanctioned attack of Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, who reported it. Indeed, at no time in the team’s now multiple comments has anyone acknowledged that, as an organization, the Houston Astros’s first impulse in all of this was to attempt to bully and discredit a reporter for what has now been established as a truthful report to which the Astros have admitted. And they certainly have not voiced any specific regret or offered any form of accountability for it.

Major League Baseball is apparently investigating Taubman’s conduct. But it is not, presumably, investigating the Astros’ disingenuous smear of Apstein. A smear that the Astros likely undertook because they figured they could intimidate Apstein and, what may even be worse, because they assumed that the rest of the press — many of whom were witnesses to Taubman’s act — would go along or remain silent. If they did not think that, of course, releasing the statement they did would’ve been nonsensical. It speaks of an organization that believes it can either bully or manipulate the media into doing its bidding or covering for the teams’ transgressions. That part of this has gone wholly uncommented on by the Astros and apparently will for the foreseeable future. No matter how this shakes out for Taubman, if the Astros do not talk about how and why they decided to baselessly attack Apstein on Monday night, nothing they ever say should be trusted again.

More broadly, everything the Astros are doing now is the same as when they traded for Roberto Osuna in the first place.

In 2018 they wanted to do an unpopular thing — arbitrage a player’s domestic violence suspension into the acquisition of cheap relief help — while wanting to appear as though they were good actors who had a “zero tolerance for domestic violence” policy. To solve that problem they shoveled a lot of malarkey about how “zero tolerance” actually includes a fair amount of tolerance and hoped that everyone would go along. When not everyone did — when fans brought signs of protest to the ballpark or expressed their displeasure with Osuna’s presence on the roster — they confiscated them then hoped it’d all blow over and, eventually, via Taubman’s rant on Saturday night, lashed out at their critics.

Here, again, they want to do something unpopular: retain a boorish and insensitive executive in Taubman without him or the team suffering any consequences for it, be they actual consequences or mere P.R. fallout. Again, it’s kind of hard to pull that off, so to do so they falsely accused a reporter of lying and then circled the wagons when they caught heat for it.

I have no idea how long they plan to keep this up. Maybe they are calculating that people will forget and that forgetting is the same as forgiveness. Maybe they simply don’t care. All I do know is that folks will be teaching the Astros’ response to all of this as a counterexample in crisis management courses for years.