The Red Sox bullpen won them game two, and the World Series last night. Yep, that was not a typo. The Sox bullpen which was ninth in the majors in ERA is shoving the bats down the Dodgers throats in this series. If anyone just watched the Sox bullpen during the regular season they would understand why this is so absurd. Joe freaking Kelly who could not find the plate in the second half of the season is mowing hitters down. Let’s take a closer look at how the Sox pen turned it around.
Eovaldi Out Of The Pen
The real key to the turn around in the bullpen has been “The Rover”. That is what Alex Cora calls using a starting pitcher out of the bullpen. The biggest question coming into the playoffs and throughout the regular season was who was gonna bridge the gap to Kimbrel. It became such a problem the Sox practically had tryouts for the eighth inning in September. Steven Wright was even giving a chance that should tell you how desperate Cora was. However, it seemed like Cora had the answer all along.
Nathan Eovaldi has been lights out in the postseason especially coming out of the pen. Sale and Porcello have also provided key innings out of the pen but Eovaldi has been the story. In 3.1 innings out of the pen, Eovaldi has allowed one hit and struck out two. Eovaldi started his career with the Dodgers in 2011 and has come full circle to haunt them in their quest for a World Series. Six batters have come to the plate against Eovaldi and he has set all six down. Everyone was clamoring for a power arm out of the pen and another starter. Dombroski went out and got both for the price of one.
Approach and Consistency
As noted the biggest problem for the Sox was who was gonna pitch the seventh and the eight in a tight game. All season long Cora was rotating through guys night in and night out hoping something would stick. Now Cora finally has a plan. In game two of the World Series with a two-run lead, Joe Kelly came out of the bullpen and was ridiculous. The thought of Kelly pitching in a two-run game in the World Series a month ago would have been laughable. Kelly is now pitching like the best reliever on either team. He has struck out six of the four batters and has looked like Andrew Miller of a few years ago.
Barnes who sat out most of September with a hip injury has been lights out this postseason. In 7.1 innings this postseason, Barnes has allowed only two hits, one run, and has struck out six. Barnes has always had good stuff his problem has been spotting his fastball and throwing his curveball for strikes. This postseason, Barnes’ off-speed pitch has been nasty. In game four of the ALCS, Barnes came out of the pen and threw two beautiful curveballs on the outside part of the plate to secure the strikeout and get out of a jam. If Barnes has a feel for that curveball, he can be a weapon.
The most important difference for the Sox pitching staff has been the approach. Finally, the Sox pitchers are attacking hitters. From Price to Kimbrel every single pitcher on the Red Sox is pounding the inside corner. Its the most basic style of pitching hard stuff inside sets up soft stuff away. Kimbrel in his past two appearances has been effective because he is not trying to pick a corner. Instead, he is throwing gas inside and jamming hitters. Every pitch works off that fastball. It does not matter how hard you throw; if you cannot control the inside of the plate, you are going to get crushed. Cora and his staff deserve a lot of credit for coming to their senses. As a result, the Sox’ biggest weakness has become a weapon.