The Boston Red Sox did their job in protecting Fenway Park, capturing the first two wins of the world series. No one expected it to be easy and, despite the 2-0 lead, they have needed to execute across the board to get the victories, while adding yet another edge.
Going into these playoffs, it was clear that the bullpen was the weak point of the Red Sox. When Craig Kimbrel started struggling, it looked like that could cost them a lot of games, eliminating any advantage their stellar starting rotation can get.
After two games in the world series, the bullpen looks transformed and is locking down the competition in the toughest moments in the tightest games.
Keep in mind, Kimbrel was being asked to come in for more than just three out saves, and the struggling bullpen certainly contributed to knocking him off his game.
Kimbrel was burdened with being the only elite option out of the bullpen, and it was clear early on that they would be at risk by putting everything on him. Now that Cora has found a way to lessen that pressure, he once again looks like the most dominant closer of a generation
It has been more regular to see coaches get creative with their pitchers in the playoffs. Roles become much less defined, closers may not only be used for the ninth inning and aces will come in to close out the biggest games. Andrew Miller really set a new standard of how relief pitcher can be used, and Cora is taking the next step by putting his top starters in those most important moments.
These are the decisions that make or break a career for a coach. Cora is fortunate enough to have a lot of options, but there was no easy fix. So far, Cora has been utterly masterful and the abundance of talent is rewarding him for making sure everyone is put in a situation where they can succeed.
Realizing the limitations of his bullpen, Cora has transformed how you think about attacking this pitching staff. It is customary to see regular season starters come out of the bullpen. What is so unique about what Cora is doing is that he has his playoff starters coming out of the bullpen, and not just for a last ditch season saving effort.
David Price may have set a standard by seeing a lot more success out of the bullpen. Fortunately, it is effective execution and not struggles that are putting the other starters in relief positions.
Last night, Cora took advantage of the extra rest day for travel, and having Nathan Eovaldi fourth in the rotation allowed him to come in after Joe Kelly, and allow an easy transition to Kimbrel.
Keep in mind, that means three consequetive pitchers that throw utter filth over 100 mph. Players no longer get excited when they see the Red Sox bullpen and their starters are making sure it does not blow up by having a far too early exit, like what happened in Price’s earlier start.
Cora is making sure he leaves no weaknesses for his opponents, and he has taken the weakest part of this team and used their best talent to make up for it. So far, Price, Chris Sale, Eovaldi and Rick Porcellohave been dominant out of the bullpen, and the Dodgers may not have an answer for what they are doing.
All four of their primary starters have a shut out inning coming out of the bullpen, and at no point has the extra work hurt any of these pitchers when they are up to start. Cora has been meticulous with their rest, and has enough confidence to adjust the rotation based on who will be the most effective on that given night.
Dealing with pitchers like Sale and Eovaldi, who regularly hit 100 on the radar gun, for just one inning, is a true nightmare. Keep in mind, regular relievers Kelly and Kimbrel are surrounding them with more triple digit fastballs to close out a game, and there is nothing on the Dodgers that can rattle or scare them.
Obviously, the talent level drops after Price for the Red Sox, but Porcello and Eovaldi have been just as, if not more effective than the established options. Keep in mind, the Dodgers also need to be worried about the prospect of Sale coming in right when they expose a pitcher, and that might be the most demoralizing thing about a Red Sox team that can crush your soul in more ways than anyone else.
Cora has been making brilliant moves all postseason. The Red Sox have a deep bench and the platoon system with the hitters has done wonders, with all kinds of options excelling on both sides.
By getting even more out of their pitching talent, while being careful enough to not limit them when they are starting, Cora might have establish the best version of this Red Sox roster. When you look at the talent on paper along with how well they are executing, it is no surprise the Red Sox are up 2-0 in the world series.