Red Sox

Drellich: Red Sox role-d once again by Farrell's bullpen usage

Drellich: Red Sox role-d once again by Farrell's bullpen usage

CLEVELAND -- John Farrell is fighting himself. More than he might realize, he’s willing to mix up his bullpen usage in a way that’s smart. But in some of the most crucial innings, Farrell will stubbornly and perhaps reflexively revert to tradition and a false sense of role -- one that actually runs counter to the logic the manager employs at other times.

Look at the big cat, Craig Kimbrel, who was again left in the bullpen Monday night as the eighth and ninth innings deteriorated in a 5-4 Red Sox loss to the Indians. 

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It’s all about the inning with Kimbrel, you see -- or in Monday’s case, it's a matter of when Farrell would have been forced to use him.

“[If] I use Kimbrel tonight, [he'll] need . . . one, if not two days off,” Farrell said. “That's why you need the contributions from everyone.”

But the indication was Kimbrel was available for a save, or perhaps the 10th inning when the lineup turned over again. If he needs rest, rest him. Farrell did not say that Kimbrel was down entirely.

But the eighth inning? No, that’d be lunacy.

“I know that there’s this overriding thought that you can just drop Craig Kimbrel in anywhere from the sixth inning to the ninth inning,” Farrell said Friday. “And with all due respect, there’s a lot more that goes into it than just that. We’ve used Craig for four outs or more this year. And there’s a willingness to do that. 

“But when we’re completely rested down there, there are roles [in which] guys have performed very well . . . And there’s a reason why our bullpen has excelled to the point they have. There are roles that are established and they pitch to them.”

Seriously, what roles? The roles change as often as Farrell’s logic defending them, aside from Kimbrel’s overwhelming need to be in save situations.

The Sox were not “completely rested” on Monday, for one. Addison Reed was unavailable entirely.

But step back for a moment, and look at the overall usage of the reliever who initially got the Red Sox into trouble Monday in the eighth, Matt Barnes. 

The righty this year has pitched in the sixth inning three times. He’s been used in the seventh inning 18 times and the eighth inning 29 times, including Monday. 

Another nine times, Barnes has pitched in the ninth or later. Fourteen times, he’s made multi-inning appearances.

Does that sound like a rigid role to you?

When Farrell spoke recently of his plan for using Reed and Barnes, it sounded pretty darn progressive.

"Addision, we’ve initially said it’s the eighth inning," Farrell said. "We’ve used him accordingly based on where we are in the lineup and based on the potential of running threats . . . As we map out the seventh and eighth inning, it’s going to be Barnes and Addison and we’ll see where the right matchups provide themselves.”

So what matters more, lineup position and running threats, or what inning it is?

Depends which reliever Farrell is talking about on which night, or maybe which way the wind is blowing.

For Monday night, Barnes all of a sudden was a reliever with a role.

“On a night when not everyone's available, [Barnes is] the one that has had the most experience in the eighth inning against both lefties and righties,” Farrell said.

Experience in a particular inning, now that’s the primary factor for Barnes? What about the fact Barnes has been terrible on the road lately?

What about the fact that Brandon Workman has a 1.40 ERA, or that Farrell said before the game Workman is now in the high-leverage mix?

Workman gave up a leadoff double on Monday in the ninth inning. He might have blown the eighth inning anyway. Farrell also prefers a clean inning for Workman, and wanted to avoid using the righty Monday for workload reasons as well.

But Workman was, indeed, available. So why let extra innings or a tie game in the ninth force you to use him, as opposed to pitching him at a time he perhaps could have protected the lead?

Workman in the eighth could have thrown in place of either Barnes or Heath Hembree. The latter’s done worse than anyone on the Sox with inherited runners and came on to try to clean up Barnes’ mess. Workman has six inherited runners this year and none have scored.

But Workman has a role. Except he doesn’t. Or if he does, it’s as loosely defined as everybody else’s, save for the guy who can only get saves.

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

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NLCS: Cubs avoid sweep, top Dodgers 3-2 to cut series deficit to 3-1

CHICAGO - Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Baez hit solo drives in the second and fifth after going hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats. Contreras added a long homer against Alex Wood.

Davis entered with a 3-1 lead in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff homer to Turner, who went 2 for 2 and drew two walks.

Maddon became incensed that a swinging strike three against Curtis Granderson was ruled a foul after the umpires discussed the play. Maddon got tossed, and Granderson struck out swinging at the next pitch.

And after walking Yasmani Grandal to put runners on first and second, Davis struck out Chase Utley, who is hitless in his last 24 postseason at-bats.

All seven of Chicago's runs in this series have come on homers. And long drives in the second by Contreras and Baez made it 2-0.

Contreras' homer banged off the left-field videoboard and Baez's landed beyond the left-field bleachers on Waveland Avenue.

Bellinger cut it to 2-1 with his drive to right in the third. But Baez got the lead back up to two with a shot to the left-field bleachers in the fifth, the raucous crowd chanting "Javy! Javy!" for the flashy young star who was co-MVP of the NLCS last year.

No Cubs player had hit two in a playoff game since Alex Gonzalez went deep twice in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS against Miami.

Arrieta exited with runners on first and second in the seventh after walking Chris Taylor on a 3-2 pitch. He tipped his hat as fans gave him a standing ovation, a fitting show of appreciation for a pitcher with an expiring contract.

Arrieta turns 32 in March and figures to land a huge deal in free agency. The trade that brought him from Baltimore helped fuel Chicago's rise, with the right-hander capturing the 2015 NL Cy Young Award and contributing to last year's drought-busting championship run.

Limited by a right hamstring injury in the final month of the season, he threw 111 pitches. Brian Duensing retired Bellinger on a fly to end the seventh.

Turner made it a one-run game with his homer off the left-field videoboard against Davis in the eighth.

A career-high 16-game winner, Wood gave up three runs and four hits in 42/3 innings.

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

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ALCS: Tanaka, Yankees top Keuchel, Astros 5-0 for 3-2 lead

NEW YORK - Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans.

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