Surprise! Red Sox eliminate Tampa Bay

Attention please, ladies and gentlemen … boys and girls …
Today’s question: How many of you thought the Red Sox would be in the 2021 American League Championship Series?
For those with a hand raised, how many of you are fibbing?
And how many of you are fibbing about fibbing?
There were no great teams in the American League this season. At very good, the Tampa Bay Rays came the closest.
The Red Sox? They were, most (honest) people reckoned, pretty good.
So as very good squared off against pretty good, it was an easy pick. If the Red Sox could take the Rays to a fifth game, they could hold their heads high for being downright plucky. There are plenty of pretty good teams celebrated for their pluckiness as its conquerors play on.
But here they are, waiting to see who they’d face for the American League pennant. The Rays are waiting on the first tee.
Assessing any ballclub begins (and often ends) with its pitching staff. The Rays had the top-ranked staff in the AL, with a collective earned run average of 3.62. The Red Sox were seventh, 4.26.
Having good pitching is the main ingredient in any success a team has in the postseason. How that staff is managed is critical.
Poor Kevin Cash. The formula that has worked so well for him in his seven seasons managing the Rays failed him in this series.
For those of us who loathe the concept of a team using four pitchers in a five-hit shutout, we smile as justice prevailed.
The play-by-play man on FS1 Monday night surely had folks bemoaning how fate simply showed no mercy to the Tampa Bay Rays manager.
Here he was, with two outs in the third inning, and Cash was already hauling in in his third pitcher of the night.
Was Cash being blackmailed – empty your bullpen or you’ll be strapped in a chair and listen to Joe West sing country music until you go completely mad.
“His high-leverage guys have worked an awful lot the past two or three weeks,” the announcer said, droning on in his empathy for the beleaguered Rays skipper
High-leverage guys … of all the useless jargon that has infected baseball the past few high-leverage seasons, it is one of the dreariest.
In terms not heard in the statistical analysis community, it means guys who are good in the clutch. Or something like that.
Members of the pocket-protector community are responsible for the notion that starters are really openers, as opposed to the closers in charge of nailing down a win. The guys in the middle are situational, and they damned well better be high leverage in the situations in which they are situated.
In the Rays’ 5-0 win to open the series, Cash used four pitchers – four pitchers to achieve a shutout.
In Sunday night’s 13-inning game, the Rays used nine pitchers.
Juxtapose that with Game 6 of the 1975 World Series: The Red Sox used four pitchers over 12 innings and somehow managed to pull out a win.
One medium-leverage guy’s assessment: Cash got exactly what he deserved.

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