You watched the game, you know what happened. But…
What stood out?
The Red Sox hitters stood out– and not in a good way. As frustrating as it was to see the game end on a check-swing (Pedroia swung), it was a microcosm of what was going on all night. Take a look at the swings-and-misses by Red Sox hitters:
One, that’s a lot of misses. Two, that’s a lot of misses that are nowhere near the strike zone. Considering how Sox hitters were during the regular season– they ranked 8th-best in O-zone swing% (29.3%) which measures how often a hitter swings at a pitch outside the strike zone, and were the 4th-hardest team to strike out (14 K’s in Game 1)– one would have to assume this was an “outlier” game. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was a predominately young lineup getting their first taste of postseason baseball on the road– but in any case, you have to think it won’t happen again in game 2.
Speaking of “outlier” games, Rick Porcello certainly had one. He did not pick a great time to have a combination of: shortest outing of the season (4.1) + most runs allowed in a start (tied, 5). It appeared that Porcello had his usually very good control in Game 1, but his usually very good command was not there. Meaning, he was throwing strikes but not throwing the ball where he wanted to within the strike zone. He was just a little off, and the Indians hitters did not miss his mistakes.
Finally, Andrew Miller stood out. Not because he pitched well (he most always does), but because of how he was used. Miller, the Indians best relief pitcher, came on in the 5th(!) inning with 2 outs and nobody on. He left in the 7th, with 2 out and nobody on (somewhere, Brian Kenny gave a subtle fist pump). The idea is simple: you should use your best pitchers in the most high-leverage situations, and no matter the inning because outs in the 5th inning are just as valuable as outs in the 9th inning. Or, it’s the thinking that is the exact opposite of what Buck Showalter was thinking during the AL Wild Card game. There are 27 of them– outs are outs.
What was interesting about Francona bringing Miller on in the 5th was that it was not exactly a high leverage situation. Two outs, nobody on base, and Brock Holt coming to plate doesn’t exactly scream: I need my best pitcher and I need him now! When asked after the game why he brought Miller in for that situation, Francona said something along the lines of, “I wanted Miller for the third time through the meat of their lineup.” OK, I can buy that. You could argue that maybe Francona brought him in a batter to early, but then again, the Indians won, so maybe we should be critiquing the other manager’s decisions.
We’re on to Cleveland.