The Indians’ form is eerily similar to a recent World Series champion
Last season, the Kansas City Royals rode one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history all the way to the team’s first World Series win in 30 years.
The Cleveland Indians saw that level of relief-pitcher dominance and are one-upping it.
If the theory is true, and postseason is baseball is really all about the ‘pens, then it’s obvious why the Indians sit one game away from the team’s first American League pennant since 1997.
This is no normal circumstance, but this is no ordinary bullpen.
There are other factors to credit for the Indians’ incredible, undefeated postseason run — timely hitting, strong starting pitching, great defense — but Monday’s 4-2 win over the Blue Jays was the clearest example to date of how important Cleveland’s stupendous bullpen is to its World Series hopes.
The relievers were called into action early Monday night, after the stitches in Trevor Bauer’s pinkie broke open, covering his hand, jersey, and the ball in blood. The stitches were a result of a cut on the throwing hand, sustained while working with a drone.
Regardless of the level of stupidity behind the laceration and the annoyance in making the substitution, Bauer was lifted after only two outs Monday night. It was time for Johnny Wholestaff to enter the game.
Johnny had a tremendous contest.
“If there’s a hiccup along the way, we lose,” Terry Francona told ESPN after the contest. “That wasn’t how we drew it up. … That’s one of the most amazing … Everybody pitched in and that’s why we won.”
The Indians became the first team in postseason history to win when no pitcher registered more than five outs in the contest. Six Indians relievers combined to pitch 8.1 innings, allowing only two runs to one of the best offenses in baseball.
Great bullpens make the game shorter — some can even shorten the contest by three or four innings, such is their reliability. That’s what the Royals did the last two years.
But what about a bullpen that can shorten the game by eight innings?
That’s what the Indians proved they could do Monday night. And while it’s hardly a sustainable model for the regular season, in the playoffs it’s an incredible trait to have.
“The Circumstance” of Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, the three-headed, out-gobbling monster that’s redefining the modern bullpen with their free-form roles — one could pitch the sixth inning one day and a ninth-inning save situation the next day — has been something more than superb so far in this ALCS. Combined, the three relievers have pitched 11.1 innings, allowed four hits, a walk, and no runs, and have struck out 20.
Miller, whose left-handed slider is breaking in diabolical ways this postseason, has struck out an ALCS record 13 — he’s registered 15 total outs.
Dominant bullpens leading the way is the new normal in baseball, but this Indians bullpen is not normal — it’s something special.
Is there any wonder why Cleveland’s postseason run is following suit?