BOSTON -- Going into the postseason, if there was a question mark attached to the Red Sox, it would have hovered over the bullpen, more specifically, middle relief getting to closer Koji Uehara.
That has not been an issue, though.
The Sox bullpen has allowed just one run in 24 1/3 innings over the last seven games for a 0.34 ERA. Overall, the pen’s 0.84 ERA this postseason is best among all playoff teams. The only better marks in team history were the perfect 0.00 ERAs posted in 1916 and 1918.
“You can never undervalue it,” manager John Farrell said of his bullpen’s postseason work. “There's added stress on every pitch that a starter is going to throw. And if that causes them on average to pitch an inning less, as we've kind of experienced in the postseason . . . The work of [Brandon] Workman, [Craig] Breslow, [Junichi] Tazawa and Koji have been invaluable. If it weren't for that bullpen and the success of them, you might be in Detroit right now.
“So we can't underestimate their importance to us.”
* * * * *
One area Red Sox pitchers will have to be particularly cautious with the Cardinals: In the regular season, the Cardinals hit .330 with runners in scoring position. In the NLCS against the Dodgers they hit .349 in those situations.
“They have a very consistent approach up and down their lineup,” Farrell said. “They do such a good job of staying inside the baseball, using centerfield in the off field; right‑handers using the big part of the field in right‑centerfield. It's allowed them to stay on some breaking balls away. They have a pronounced two‑strike approach. They're difficult to strike out. Because of that same approach, they make a lot of contact. There's not a lot of swing and miss that enables them to drive in runners that are in scoring position. To think that they've hit 52 points higher than us with runners in scoring position is pretty remarkable.”
* * * * *
Farrell would not be surprised if players on both sides are feeling some butterflies for Game 1.
“Well, if guys aren't feeling some adrenaline, they might not be human,” Farrell said. “It's perfectly natural to have some adrenaline and emotion in situations like this. It's much the reason why we talked about how guys perform in this environment in the postseason. And if that causes you to make personnel decisions that are separate of maybe some performance numbers across the course of a regular season that comes into it. But I'm sure that this will be an electric environment here tonight, as will be the case Game 3 in St. Louis.”
* * * * *
Allen Craig was added to the Cardinals roster for the World Series, with Adorn Chambers taken off. Craig, an All-Star this season, hit .315, with 13 home runs, 97 RBI, a .373 on-base percentage, and .457 slugging percentage in the regular season. Craig missed the first two rounds of the postseason with ligament damage in his left foot and has not been in a game since Sept. 4.
“Run producer in the middle of the order as a right‑handed hitter,” Farrell said. “I'm sure they're feeling pretty good that they can use him in the DH role. We also recognize that there's been 40‑some games missed, and that's not being taken lightly on our part, because we've seen guys step back in after sizable games missed and have performed very well. [Detroit’s] Jhonny Peralta, obviously, we came off a series in which we just saw that.
“So anytime you have the ability to lengthen out the lineup with that kind of power bat in the middle, it's a further challenge for us.”
* * * * *
Farrell on David Ortiz’s importance to the team off the field:
“I think as every new player that has come here, whether it's through the system or from another organization, they all look to him as the guy that's paved the way, that has dealt with the challenges that are present here in Boston, that has also succeeded at the highest level. And he's so open with his experiences, to maybe help a guy transition into this environment and this market. And he's been great for a lot of years doing that.”