BOSTON -- While Red Sox manager Alex Cora doesn’t like to go much beyond the next game when he plots pitching plans during the postseason, he did hint which direction he will go in for Game 4 of the AL Division Series on Monday.
“We'll do our thing [Sunday in Game 3] and then go from there. Most likely it's going to be Nick [Pivetta],” said Cora, when asked about a Game 4 starter. “We'll see. We have to make sure we win tomorrow, and if we have to use certain guys tomorrow, we'll do it. We've got capable guys to pitch Game 4 too.”
If Pivetta is needed in relief to win Game 3, Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale are both on the table as potential Game 4 starters. It would be a chance at redemption for both lefties.
Rodriguez got just five outs in Boston’s 5-0 loss in Game 1, throwing 41 pitches.
Sale was pulled after just three outs and 30 pitches after serving up a grand slam in the first inning of Game 2. The Red Sox, backed by a barrage of offense, came back to win that game.
It’s conceivable Rodriguez could be used in relief over the next couple of days. However, Cora ruled out that possibility for Sale, given that he’s made just 10 starts since returning from Tommy John surgery on Aug. 14.
The Red Sox are searching for ways to help Sale regain his groove. In his first seven starts, the left-hander had a 2.57 ERA while logging 35 innings. The last three starts haven’t been pretty, with Sale logging just 8 2/3 innings and giving up 12 hits and 10 runs.
How do the Sox get their most accomplished pitcher back on track?
“Keep working. We've got to work. There's a lot of people looking at video from now and a few years ago and all of that,” said Cora. “He's the first one to admit it -- he needs to be better, and he's working at it. We'll get him right, and he'll be ready for whenever we need him.”
Brasier’s payoff for a long year
This year started off as the toughest season of Ryan Brasier’s life for personal and professional reasons. He lost his father David in February.
When the righty reported to Spring Training, he was recovering from a broken right pinky finger sustained in an offseason workout. And once he recovered from that, Brasier sprained his left calf late in Spring Training. When he was just about ready to rejoin the Red Sox in June, Brasier was pelted by a line drive to the face in a simulated game and got a concussion.
But Brasier finally made it back to the mound for Boston on Sept. 3, and he has become one of Cora’s most important relievers down the stretch.
After getting optioned to Triple-A Worcester on Sept. 17, Brasier returned six days later and hasn’t allowed a run in 10 appearances (including two in the playoffs) since he was called back up.
“With Brasier, I do believe him getting sent down kind of lit a fire under him,” said Cora. “He came back to prove to us that we made the wrong decision, and I'm glad that it's going this way.”
For Brasier, there was some emotion involved in striking out the side in Game 2. Tropicana Field was the last place his father watched him pitch in person.
“My mom was there yesterday, and my whole family was there. Definitely thinking about him yesterday -- not so much while I was pitching, but before and after for sure,” said Brasier.
What happened to Richards?
Righty Garrett Richards looked healthy when he threw three pitches to retire the only batter he faced in Game 1.
But shortly before Game 2 was scheduled to start, the lanky righty was taken off the Division Series roster with a left hamstring strain. Per MLB rules, he’s not eligible to pitch again until the World Series, should the Red Sox advance that far.
“Richards, he pulled his left hammy running, doing his work, conditioning,” said Cora. “That happened during batting practice or before that [on Friday], whenever they were throwing, so we had to make a decision. He wasn't going to be ready for tomorrow or the next day. It was going to take a while. It's hard because you lose him for the next round if we get there.”
Matt Barnes, Boston’s longest-tenured reliever, replaced Richards on the roster. But his late-season struggles continued when he needed 33 pitches to throw a scoreless ninth inning in Boston’s 14-6 win in Game 2.
“With Barnes, I think mechanically, he's a little bit off,” said Cora. “He's pulling his fastball. The breaking ball still plays. He got the lefties out, which is something that we took into consideration when we decided to add him, because he's one of those guys that he's a neutral split and he can get the righties out. So that's why we added him.”
In preparation for a potential next round, righty Hirokazu Sawamura and lefty Darwinzon Hernandez both threw live batting practice at Fenway Park on Saturday. Teams can reset their rosters for each round of the postseason.