Chris Sale is all set to start Game 1 at Fenway Park. If the Boston Red Sox later need him for middle relief, he’s ready. Or a setup spot, sure.

“I mean, it’s post-season baseball. You have to be prepared for anything,” the All-Star lefty said.

Especially when it comes to pitching, particularly after seeing the likes of Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and other All-Star aces working in unusual roles during recent Octobers.

Because as managers’ moves this month have proven — some worked, some didn’t — the winning strategy might be getting the best guy on the mound at the key moment, no matter when that comes.

“That’s what it is. You’re using your team’s talents the best way you can to win games,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said Thursday, a day before the Brewers host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

Sale and the Red Sox take on the Houston Astros in the ALCS beginning Saturday night.

Relievers have accounted for 48.8 per cent of innings in the playoffs so far, topping last year’s record of 46.5 per cent for the whole post-season. By comparison, five years ago in 2013, relievers threw 35.7 per cent of post-season innings.

But the remaining teams haven’t been as quick to the bullpen as the trend might suggest.

The World Series champion Astros and Los Angeles are bucking the relief revolution movement, with the Dodgers at 30 per cent bullpen usage and Houston at 36. Interestingly, those ‘pens are also 1-2 in lowest ERA this post-season with marks under 1.00.

Even when teams have gone to the bullpen, it hasn’t necessarily been for a traditional reliever. The Red Sox bullpen was seen as a potential weakness this October, so rookie manager Alex Cora didn’t hesitate to use Sale — who started Game 1 of the ALDS — for the eighth inning this week, trying to finish off New York at Yankee Stadium.

“He was in the bullpen, but it was kind of like his day. Everybody was on board. I even shouted to the dugout, ‘Hey, we’re all in! He’s coming in,”‘ Cora said.

Cora also employed former Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello to start and relieve against the Yankees.

The Brewers are the only team among the final four to use relievers for more outs than starters. At a time when more teams are using relievers to start for an inning or two, the Brewers went that way in their NL Division Series opener against Colorado. Reliever Brandon Woodruff began with three hitless innings.

“Look, it’s no secret that we’re going to use our pitching a little differently than traditionally, than the traditionalists would like,” Counsell said.

“We know we’ve got a lot of guys, the depth of our staff is what is the most meaningful thing for me when we kind of figure out how we do this,” he said.

Cora was Houston’s bench coach last year when Astros manager AJ Hinch mixed and matched. Verlander and Sale started against each other in Game 1 of the ALDS, then …read more

Source:: Nationalpost


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October staffing: Sale, Kershaw, aces become bullpen aces

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