If we’re learning one thing about postseason baseball – again – it’s that the successful teams have the best bullpens.
My oh my how those guys in the pens of the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals are pitching. And they’re pitching a lot. A whole lot.
Managers willing to give starting pitchers extra leash during the regular season are more judicial when the games matter this much.
We’re not seeing a lot of pitching masterpieces, outside of Chris Carpenter’s 1-0 gem against the Philadelphia Phillies and Roy Halladay to nail down the National League Divisional Series last Friday.
Otherwise, bullpens are being called upon often and for long stretches of a game by both the Rangers and Cardinals, who have taken leads over Detroit and Milwaukee, respectively, in the AL and NL Championship Series.
The Rangers’ pen has been especially busy, given that rain has interrupted two games of their ALCS with the Tigers. In eight postseason games, the pitchers in the Texas bullpen have combined to pitch 36.2 innings. And in all but a couple of those games, those guys have been lights out.
In helping Texas take a 3-1 lead on Detroit, the Rangers’ bullpen has been amazing. In 21.2 innings covering four games – that’s more than five innings per game – eight Texas relievers have allowed only 10 hits and two runs while striking out 20.
The Texas pen had to cover 4.1 innings in Game 1 because of rain, then 8.1 innings in Game 2, decided in 11 innings. Wednesday night, in another extra-inning game, the Texas bullpen allowed two hits and one run in six innings.
Give Ron Washington credit for getting this much out of what must be a tired bullpen. But there haven’t been just one or two hot arms in the Texas bullpen; everybody down there is doing his best work.
The same is true for the Cardinals, who Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers got only five shaky innings out of Carpenter when they surely were expecting more. But in a 4-3 game, four St. Louis relievers retired all 12 hitters they faced in do-or-die situations.
The St. Louis bullpen has pitched 12.2 innings in three games against the Brewers. In Games 2 and 3, both Cardinals victories, the pen has allowed only one hit and one run in 8.2 innings.
So give it up to Texas relievers Mike Gonzalez, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman, Koji Uehara, Darren Oliver, Mike Adams, Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando.
Raise a toast to the Cardinals’ Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Kyle McClellan, Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn and Jason Motte.
There are a variety of reasons the Rangers and Cardinals have gotten this far in the postseason. Their bullpens are at the top of the list.