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#pounditFriday, June 2, 2023

Questionable bullpen management hurts Red Sox in Game 4

Craig Kimbrel Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox have been eliminated from the playoffs in the ALDS for the second year in a row, and some questionable bullpen management in Game 4 is partially to blame for the exit.

The Red Sox started last year’s Cy Young winner Rick Porcello in Game 4 against the Astros on Monday, and he allowed two runs over three innings. Boston then made the bold decision to bring in Game 1 starter Chris Sale in relief. Sale was brilliant for his first three innings and did not allow a hit. Things started to get a little shaky in the 7th — his fourth inning of work — when he allowed hits to George Springer and Carlos Correa but ended the threat by striking out Marwin Gonzalez to keep Boston in front 3-2.

At that point, based on the way Sale was getting hit in the 7th, there should have been strong consideration given to replacing him. Instead, the Sox pushed their luck and let Sale start the 8th. He allowed a solo shot to tie the game and a hit to Evan Gattis before being pulled. Craig Kimbrel came in and looked terrible. He walked a batter, threw a wild pitch, and gave up the lead on a Josh Reddick RBI single.

Kimbrel then came out to pitch the 9th with Boston down to Houston 4-3. He got a strikeout, then hit a batter, got a flyout, and then he allowed a single and double to make it 5-3. Addison Reed came in to get the final out of the 9th. That last run was huge because it allowed the Astros to still maintain the lead even after Rafael Devers’ inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the 9th.

The big problem was that Boston stuck too long with pitchers who were showing signs of struggling. Sale had surrendered two hits in the 7th. A new pitcher should have come in to start the 8th, be it Reed or Kimbrel. Then after it was apparent in the 8th that Kimbrel didn’t have his best stuff, he should have been pulled after the hit batter in the 9th. Instead, Boston stuck with him long enough to allow the insurance run, which made a huge difference.

It’s also important to note that manager John Farrell was ejected in the second while protesting a strike call against Dustin Pedroia. It’s unclear who exactly was making the decisions about the pitcher management for the rest of the game.

Dave Dombrowski has made major moves as Boston’s GM. He spent $217 million on David Price and then cashed in a ton of prospects to acquire Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel. All he has to show for his moves is two ALDS exits.

Expect some changes in Boston this offseason after another disappointing finish.

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