Game 3 of the World Series between the visiting Red Sox and host Cardinals is just around the bend. The contest, since it's in Busch Stadium, will be played under NL rules and will feature two starting pitchers -- Jake Peavy and Joe Kelly -- who may struggle against the powerful opposing lineups. In part, that's why Boston manager John Farrell and St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny shouldn't hesitate to go to the bullpen -- or a pinch-hitter -- early in the game.
On the first point, this is now, in essence, a best-of-five series, and managing to win the day's game regardless of short-view future considerations is absolutely in order. The tactical approach should reflect the notion that there's no tomorrow, even if that's not precisely true. The Sox and Cards each boast a shutdown bullpen: Boston's pen ranks fourth in the majors in relief WAR, and the Cardinals' corps, now fronted by those young high-ceiling, high-performance arms plus lefty-slayer Randy Choate,is better than the already-solid regular season numbers would suggest. As well, both teams are coming off a travel day, so the pens are somewhat rested.
Then there are those pinch-hitting considerations. This is the World Series, and in a very real sense every plate appearance is an important one. Think back to Game 1 and how, even though it wound up being decided by a seven-run margin, the outcome was reducible to just an at-bat here or there. If Pete Kozma makes that early-inning turn, if David Freese squares up just a hairsbreadth better on that pitch he fouled back before hitting into that 1-2-3 double play ...
While you can justify giving away ABs to, say, keep your first-order ace in the game, doing so in deference to Kelly and Peavy, even if they're faring well, isn't wise. That will especially be the case if either is scheduled to bat just prior to, say, facing the opposing lineup for the third time in the next half-inning. At that point, a frontline reliever is more likely to get outs than even a good starter who's now familiar and even predictable to hitters on the other side.
This isn't meant to impugn Kelly and Peavy, who are good at their craft. However, Kelly has struggled of late, and even his strong ground-ball tendencies don't quite justify the low ERA he authored during the regular season. As for Peavy, he tinkered with his mechanics prior to being battered by the Tigers in Game 4 of the ALCS, and he hasn't logged a game score of 60 or better since late August.. Even if they thrive in the early innings of Game 3, how much longer can they be expected to sustain that excellence against two of the top offenses in the game?
Throughout very recent history, Farrell has shown a bit more flexibility in this regard than has Matheny. However, for Matheny -- with a long man as skilled as Shelby Miller on the roster -- there's no excuse for not having an aggressive hook.
In Game 3 on Saturday night, each manager should realize the realistic best-case outcome of sticking with his starter at a cost of squandered high-leverage at-bats and with a fresh and potentially dominant bullpen at his disposal. Even if it's so early that commenatators are moved to howling, aggressive, against-the-book managing is in order. After all, there is no tomorrow. For the most part.