Red Sox vs. Cardinals: Why Bullpen Performance Will Decide Series
The 2013 MLB playoffs have been all about dominant starting pitching performances from the likes of Michael Wacha, Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray and Justin Verlander.
As the World Series approaches, however, it is time for the bullpens of the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals to step up and decide who will be the champions.
The two bullpen staffs have been put together in different fashions, but they have yielded the same results as October has progressed.
The Red Sox, who will host Games 1 and 2 at Fenway Park, acquired the cornerstone of their bullpen—closer Koji Uehara—in free agency.
Uehara was thrust into the role of closer due to injuries to Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, and he transitioned into the role with ease.
Since he took over as the Red Sox's closer on June 26, the former Baltimore Oriole and Texas Ranger has put up some astonishing numbers on the mound:
Since Koji Uehara took over as Red Sox closer on June 26, he has a 0.39 WHIP (!!), allowing only 21 baserunners in 53.1 innings.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 23, 2013
In the American League Championship Series, Uehara recorded three saves and a win against the Detroit Tigers.
The two Boston pitchers who have set up the 38-year-old Japanese closer during the postseason have been southpaw Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa.
Breslow and Tazawa have also been very effective in their first postseason appearances, as they have combined to throw 12 innings and concede just eight hits and one run.
The St. Louis bullpen has been built in a similar, but different, fashion to the one of the Red Sox.
While the Cardinals pride themselves on relying on players that have come up through their farm system, two key pieces of their bullpen were acquired in sly, under-the-radar trades over the last two seasons.
Edward Mujica and John Axford have brought a veteran presence to the St. Louis pen, but they have not been called upon as much as young guns Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist.
If it weren't for the standout performances delivered by Wacha, Rosenthal would be talked about much more. He has taken over the role as closer and thrived with three saves in 15.2 innings.
In his time on the mound in October, Rosenthal has given up just five hits while not conceding a single run.
Rookies Maness and Siegrist will have a true test on their hands with the bats of the Red Sox, but as we have seen in the past from Cardinals rookie relievers, the pressure should not get to them as St. Louis seeks its third World Series title in eight years.
As both bullpens look to continue their dominant postseason form into the series that matters the most, the pressure will be put squarely on the shoulders of the starting pitchers from both teams to make sure they hand their shutdown relievers a lead late in the game.
While there may be a game or two in the World Series decided by the bats or a key defensive error, there is a bigger chance that every single game will be decided by the bullpens given their success so far in October.
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