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Game Two of the 2014 ALDS featured a lot of starting pitchers, at least as defined by their regular season roles. Wie-Yin Chen and Justin Verlander only pitched 3 2/3 and 5 innings respectively. As a result, each team went with a starting pitcher as their first pitcher out of the bullpen. All four pitchers (Chen, Verlander, Kevin Gausman, and Anibal Sanchez) pitched excellently their first time through the order. While Sanchez was pulled after facing six hitters, the other three all got to take a shot at their opponent’s lineup a second time and, in Verlander’s case, a thirds time. Those results were bad.

First time through the order:

Pitcher

Outs

SO

BB

Hits

XBH

Runs

Chen

8

2

0

1

0

0

Verlander

8

3

0

1

0

1

Gausman

9

5

0

1

0

0

Sanchez (only faced 6 batters)

6

2

0

0

0

0

Total

31

12

0

3

0

0

Second and, for Verlander, third time through the order:

Pitcher

Outs

SO

BB

Hits

XBH

Runs

Chen

3

1

0

6

3

5

Verlander

7

1

1

5

1

2

Gausman

1

0

1

2

1

1

Total

11

2

2

13

5

8

Outside of the tandem starting pitching, Game Two mostly followed the Game Two preview script:

“As will be the case with any game this series, Detroit seems to hold an edge in starting pitching. While hitting seems to be close between the two clubs, Game 1 highlighted the Orioles’ advantage in defense and relief pitching.”

As noted previously, Verlander bested Chen, leaving the Tigers with a five three lead upon his exit. Following Chen’s exit, the Orioles used a couple of nice defensive plays (this double play started by Ryan Flaherty and a put out of Miguel Cabrera at home) and stellar relief pitching to keep the game close. The Tigers used poor relief pitching (outside of Sanchez) and a poor defensive play (the J.D. Martinez bobble) to hand the lead over to the Orioles in the bottom of the eighth inning. More excellent relief pitching from the Orioles via Zach Britton closed out the game, securing a 7-6 victory.

Game Two also highlighted another factor in this series: each manager’s effectiveness at managing the bullpen. As R.J. Anderson noted in the Game One recap, Buck Showalter appears quite deft at this craft, while Brad Ausmus appears, at the very least, to be less effective than his more experienced counterpart. While Game One was more about Showalter’s ingenuity, Game Two was certainly more about Ausmus’s decision making. In Game Two, Showalter’s bullpen decisions were driven almost entirely by necessity rather than adroitness. Regardless, the Orioles were able to get the last 17 outs from Gausman, Brad Bach, and Britton while only yielding one run. Ausmus had one key decision to make: whether to send Sanchez back out for a third inning in the eighth or to go to his bullpen. Ausmus went with the latter and Joba Chamberlain came out for the eighth. Chamberlain and his replacement, Joakim Soria, blew a three run lead. One could defend the move by arguing that Sanchez had only pitched one inning since coming off the DL late in the season. One could criticize the move by mentioning that Sanchez had faced the minimum, that Chamberlain and his replacement Soria were terrible as recently as the prior day, and that Al Albuquerque was not used instead of Chamberlain or Soria.

Managers can only play the hand they are dealt. Ausmus did not have a lot to work with, but he did not do a lot with what he had. Conversely, Showalter had a lot to work with, but he certainly did enough with what he had. Both parts of both of these statements have been major factors in the first two games of this series and are major reasons why the Orioles hold a 2-0 series lead.