08/21 02:03 CDT Bullpens looming large again for this year's postseason
Bullpens looming large again for this year's postseason
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Baseball Writer
Around this time last year, the Cleveland Indians were providing a preview of
the American League postseason.
Manager Terry Francona was using newly acquired reliever Andrew Miller in all
sorts of situations, and for more than one inning if necessary. It was an
approach that eventually helped the Indians win the American League pennant,
with Miller the MVP of the AL Championship Series.
The Indians are only the latest team to show how important a good bullpen can
be in the playoffs, but not everybody has a tireless star like Miller. Here's a
look at four other teams that are almost certain to be in the postseason this
year --- and how they might use their relievers.
Dodgers: Kenley Jansen might be the best reliever in all of baseball, and he
threw 51 pitches in the Division Series finale last year at Washington, so
manager Dave Roberts knows he can handle an extended outing. What's interesting
this year is that Los Angeles appears to have a surplus of starters, so Roberts
could convert at least one of them (Rich Hill? Kenta Maeda?) into a
multi-inning option out of the bullpen.
Astros: Houston may be the team that most resembles the 2016 Indians. The
Astros will lean on ace starter Dallas Keuchel, but there's a drop-off after
him in the rotation, which means the Houston bullpen should be crucial. Ken
Giles is the closer, but Chris Devenski is the X-factor. He went four innings
in each of his first two appearances back in April, and he's gone at least two
innings in 12 of his 49 relief outings in 2017.
Nationals: Washington's bullpen has been a mess this year, but that hasn't
prevented the Nationals from taking a big lead in the NL East. The Nats added
Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler in recent weeks to try to fix
their biggest weakness, and so far those three have combined for a 1.32 ERA for
Washington. Doolittle has converted all 11 of his save chances for his new
team. If that keeps up, the late innings in October may be less stressful than
Red Sox: Closer Craig Kimbrel has 99 strikeouts and only eight walks on the
year, and Boston acquired Addison Reed at the deadline to bolster the bullpen.
Those two are certainly capable of shutting teams down, but it's not clear how
much manager John Farrell will push them. Kimbrel has thrown 1 1/3 innings or
less in all but two of his appearances this year.
Some other developments from around baseball:
One of the most uplifting performances of the season took place last Monday,
when Colorado's Chad Bettis pitched for the first time since cancer treatment,
throwing seven scoreless innings against Atlanta. Bettis was diagnosed with
testicular cancer in November.
He took the mound again Saturday night and turned in another quality start
The most spectacular play of this past week didn't belong to a major leaguer.
Instead, it was young Jack Regenye who became a social media sensation Sunday
after his catch in the Junior League Baseball World Series.
Regenye leaped over the short fence in center field to make a home run-robbing
catch. After landing on the other side, he calmly popped up and showed the ball
in his glove.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Manny Machado hit three home runs Friday night, including a grand slam in the
bottom of the ninth inning that gave Baltimore a 9-7 win over the Los Angeles
Angels. The 25-year-old Machado now has seven career grand slams.
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