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Is Mother Nature helping Tribe, or Red Sox?

October 9, 2016

BOSTON -- Mother Nature did her part to ensure that the Large Father (that would be "Big Papi," David Ortiz) and the 2016 Red Sox live to see at least another day.Now we're left to wonder if her actions, in the form of a steady pelting of raindrops and a

BOSTON -- Mother Nature did her part to ensure that the Large Father (that would be "Big Papi," David Ortiz) and the 2016 Red Sox live to see at least another day.
Now we're left to wonder if her actions, in the form of a steady pelting of raindrops and a big chill, will have any impact on the outcome of this American League Division Series between Ortiz's Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians.
Look, you can't predict baseball any more than you can predict the weather, but Sunday's postponement of Game 3, which will now take place on Monday evening at Fenway Park (6 ET, TBS), certainly felt like a positive development for the Red Sox, if only because the Indians' bullpen has, as intended, been an X-factor in this series.
:: ALDS: Red Sox vs. Indians coverage ::
Now the criteria for whom to use and when has potentially been altered.
Terry Francona's awesomely aggressive use of the 'pen allowed the Tribe to take Game 1, then Corey Kluber's seven-plus innings combined with a big lead in Game 2 to give the relief corps -- specifically, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen -- a break before the off-day.
Now it'll go down on the official record as two off-days between Games 2 and 3, which means that if this series goes the distance, it will wrap with three games in three days.
Three games in three days? In the regular season, that's called par. But it's no secret that the Indians were in good position to take advantage of the odd Division Series slate -- with the two-on-one-off-two-on-one-off format -- to offset the absences of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar from the rotation.
Francona said on Sunday that the loss of a looming off-day could affect the way he uses his 'pen in Game 3 and, if necessary, Tuesday's Game 4 (2 or 3 p.m. ET, TBS) -- but only if the Tribe is behind.
"I think when you have a lead in a short series, you try to win, because you're never guaranteed that you're going to have the lead the next day," Francona said. "So I think you try to win every game you can. You might be less inclined to chase a win a little bit, but again, in a short series, you're never guaranteed you're going to have a lead, so when you have a lead, you go for it."
In other words, if Josh Tomlin is on point the first few times through the order on Monday and the Tribe bats, which have been potent in the two-game sample, can back him up, don't be surprised if we get another middle-inning Miller sighting. He is the Tribe's not-so-secret weapon, capable of fast-forwarding a ballgame to the eighth or ninth.
But whereas Francona was once in a position to use Miller as a neutralizer and buy his offense some time to claw its way back from a deficit, now he must be careful not to spend today what he might not be able to afford tomorrow or the day after.
It's small consolation to a Boston team that has gone from leading every team in the AL in production by at least 101 runs to scoring just four in the first 18 innings of this series. But hey, any consolation is good for a team in a deep hole.
Sure enough, the Red Sox were trying to accentuate the positive after the rainout.
"Maybe it gets Cleveland out of their rhythm a bit," veteran reliever Brad Ziegler said. "They were in a pretty good rhythm."
The Indians haven't hit nearly as well on the road (4.06 runs per game, .691 OPS) as at home (5.58 runs per game, .827 OPS) this season, so the shift in settings was looming as a potential factor no matter when Game 3 was played. All this did was give Clay Buchholz another day to try to figure out how to quell the surprisingly productive bottom of the Tribe order and Tomlin another day to think about how to continue Boston's sudden cold spell. The starting-pitching matchup featuring two former junior college teammates was unaffected by the weather.
But this does put the Red Sox in position to use Cy Young candidate Rick Porcello over Eduardo Rodriguez in Game 4, which is potentially a big deal. (The Indians would go with Trevor Bauer on full rest in that start either way.) Maybe it's not as big a deal as it looks on paper, because the Indians teed off on a flat Porcello in Game 1 to the point where there were weak rumblings about the Indians "stealing signs" (with nobody on base, it must be noted). Still, Porcello's consistency this season can't be overlooked, so having him and not the untested E-Rod in Game 4 would be another possible boost for Boston.
Every word above can quickly be rendered moot if the Indians do in the rescheduled Game 3 what they did in Games 1 and 2. They appreciate the intensity of this facility and their own organizational history -- the 1999 and 2007 Indians went a combined 0-for-6 in elimination efforts against the Red Sox in the postseason -- a history that insists they get after the Red Sox while they're still vulnerable.
"The good part," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said, "is we put ourselves in a good position to only have to win one game. And we're going to go all-out for one."

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.