Alex Cora shuffles the bullpen as Red Sox return to the ALCS
Tonight’s the night, Red Sox Nation, we’re back in the ALCS and it’s hard to believe this day is actually happening. I won’t do the same old schtick about nobody believing in this club and how they were supposed to be terrible again this year, we all know that narrative. This is all about the rematch of the century against the Houston Astros with another World Series berth on the line.
A few hours ago, the Red Sox announced their ALCS roster and for the most part, it’s pretty much exactly what we’d expect from Alex Cora. However, there are some glaring omissions while on the other side of the coin giving way to some surprising additions. The first big surprise is the fact that All-Star closer Matt Barnes has been left off of the roster for the series, not a good sign for the recently extended reliever.
In order to fill the Barnes-shaped gap in the bullpen, Cora went to one of his more trusted relievers from 2021. Hirokazu Sawamura will have the chance to make his MLB postseason debut in this series as he’s gotten the call from the boss to join the relievers. In his debut season, the righty amassed a 5-1 record with a 3.06 ERA through 53 innings of work. While not bad, his 1.453 WHIP and 10.4/5.4 K/BB ratio is a bit of a concern.
I was a bit confused by the addition of Big Kaz as he was beaten up pretty badly by the Astros in his meetings with them this year. In two appearances against the ‘Stros, he’s giving up a .333/.500/.500 slash with two walks and not a single whiff, not good. But the righty has been resting for quite some time and getting back into the thick of things the middle of a pennant race may be just what he needs to shine.
The other move that Cora made was on the southpaw side of the mound. He chose to remove the surprisingly effective Austin Davis in order to add wild fireballer, Darwinzon Hernandez. Fans may not have been thrilled with what Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox did at the Trade Deadline but nobody can deny how good Davis has been for this team since arriving.
A 1-1 record with a 4.86 ERA isn’t pretty but a lot of that damage came in his early days in Boston. As the season progressed and we got closer to the postseason we saw Big Fudge come into his own and become a reliable arm for Cora.
He’s one of those relievers that you know is on the roster and will always remember when he does poorly, but in the same turn will forget when he does well. Davis didn’t run into Houston in 2021 but I’m sure AC has his reasoning for the swap.
For Darwinzon, this is all about redemption. For the last few seasons, he’s been the guy that we’ve heard constantly about in regards to his potential and how good he can be if he figures it out. We’ve seen those flashes as well to back up the whispers but he’s also a guy that tends to have some serious trouble finding the strike zone. Being able to throw 100mph is pretty cool, but it’s even cooler when you know where the hell the ball is going.
Hernandez owns a 2-2 record with a 3.38 ERA through 40.0 IP. As I said, Darwinzon has an absolutely filthy fastball which has led to his 12.2 K/9 in 2021, but again, he has trouble finding the zone, see his 7.0 BB/9.
Cora has always spoken very fondly of Darwinzon and this may be his way of giving the big southpaw a chance to show he is everything that they believe he can be. The biggest reason why I believe he was swapped into the ALCS roster is his record against Houston this year.
He saw the Astros three times this season and was able to hold them to a .125/.125/.500 slash with three strikeouts, zero walks, and just one hit. It’s hard to argue against that track record especially when Big Fudge doesn’t have any time against the AL West champs recently.
This very well could just be a numbers-driven decision but as I said before, I can also see this as a way for AC to get Darwinzon some big-time innings to prove himself. At the end of the day these are the guys that we’re marching into Houston with so they’re going to get the support of at least myself, as I won’t speak for anyone else.
First pitch is just under two hours away and these two games in Houston will be massive for the Red Sox making their way back to the World Series. Just like the ALDS, a split at Minute Maid Park opens the door up big-time for Boston to clinch at home in front of a massively wild Fenway Park crowd. Having these two arms in the bullpen could be a big boost for Cora and the Red Sox, both have shown their mettle when the game is on the line, now they just have to do it when the lights are shining the brightest.