One of the keys to the Boston Red Sox run to the 2013 World Series was the success of their bullpen; five different Sox relievers held postseason ERAs below 2.50. Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and Craig Breslow all established themselves as dominant, reliable pitchers for late game situations. They’ve been able to carry that success into 2014, with the addition of a few new faces.
Combined, the aforementioned trio has thrown 19.0 innings so far this season. Their combined numbers read: 24 strikeouts, two walks, only 13 hits (no home runs), and a 0.00 ERA. But it doesn’t stop there. If you add Chris Capuano to make that trio a quartet, you’d need to add 10 more strikeouts, one walk, six more hits, but keep the ERA at 0.00.
Last nights win against Baltimore gave us a glimpse into the dominance and depth of the Sox bullpen. Jake Peavy didn’t have his best stuff on the mound, lasting only 5.2 innings before being pulled for Capuano. Capuano then went 1.2 innings, striking out two and only allowing one hit before Tazawa came on to face Nelson Cruz in the eighth inning. Tazawa needed only one pitch to retire Cruz and then, in a move that seemed curious to me while watching live, John Farrell hopped out of the dugout to grab Andrew Miller from the pen to face slugger Chris Davis. Well unbeknownst to me, Davis was 0-6 with five strikeouts in his career against the left-handed Miller. Sure enough, Miller set him down swinging on a nasty slider to end the inning.
Did you get all that? Well stick with me, because then things got interesting. Adam Jones led off the ninth inning with a double and reached third after a Matt Wieters ground out to second. Miller then got Steve Lombardozzi to ground one back to him for the second out. With Delmon Young standing in the on-deck circle to pinch-hit for David Lough, Farrell made the move for the righty Edward Mujica. Apparently, the pinch-hitter hadn’t been formally announced in the stadium, so Young was pulled back and the lefty Lough came back onto the field to face Mujica. Unfazed by the confusion, Mujica struck him out with a nasty curveball.
This is the type of flexibility that teams dream to have. Even if anyone was to go down, there are plenty of capable pitchers in waiting, including Brandon Workman, who was a key contributor during last year’s postseason. Bullpens often don’t get the credit they deserve, but the group that the Sox have sitting out in right field is too strong to ignore.