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Craig Breslow’s Playoff Blog: Putting everything into every pitch

10.18.13 at 12:55 pm ET
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Red Sox left-hander Craig Breslow will contribute regularly to this blog throughout his team’€™s postseason run. In addition to his work on the mound, the eight-year big leaguer is also the founder and executive director of the Strike 3 Foundation, a charitable agency that heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research. To learn more about the Strike 3 Foundation, and its new Play It Forward program, click here.

Despite the fact that we lost Game 4, it seemed like we were starting to come to life in terms of our offensive production. We just didn’t string together hits to put runs on the board.

But last night, to come out in Game 5 and put runs on the board early, especially considering what Anibal Sanchez did against us in Game 1 of the series, was huge — particularly considering the fashion in which we did so.

We knew coming into Game 5 that Mike Napoli was swinging the bat pretty well. He had the big home run in Game 3 against Justin Verlander and a couple more hits in Game 4. But the home run that he hit against Sanchez in the second inning represented something distinctive. It was as pure as I think one can hit a ball. I was sitting in the bullpen at the time. There’s an area you go inside and shut a door to stay warm while watching the game. You can’t really hear 40,000 cheering fans. But you were able to hear the crack of the bat when he hit the ball. It was just majestic, and a springboard to an early lead in a series where runs have been scarce.

Jon Lester battled all night, kept us ahead, made some big pitches when he needed to and got the ball over to the bullpen with a 4-2 lead. I don’t think any of us down there would be opposed to an occasional six- or seven-run victory. But at the same time, these tight games keep us in the game and keep us following pitch to pitch. We understand the most likely scenarios that will get us into the game. The close games demand your complete concentration and force your focus on the execution of every pitch. As we’ve seen, wins and losses in the postseason often come down to one or two pitches.

The phenomenon can be fatiguing in a way that I haven’t experienced before. I can certainly say that I am considerably more exhausted at the end of these games than I am at the end of regular season outings as a result of the experience of living and dying with one pitch. But on the mound, while in the game, it’s another story.

I feel like people will say there’s no time to be tired in the postseason and you can’t really worry about advancing or potential elimination or where you stand in a series. The truth is, you can’t really worry about advancing or elimination or where you stand in a series. Given the situations, the importance of the execution of every pitch, what’s at stake, adrenaline truly takes over. It always seems you muster just enough energy to grind through an at-bat and to make the necessary pitches.

It’s when the game is done that the effort level and concentration hits you. You just need to give your body a chance to recover. We have a workout today where we may play catch a little bit, and it will be good to move around. But I think the most important thing we can do is give ourselves a chance to recover. Certainly from the perspective of a member of the bullpen, and I’m sure the position players will say the same thing, when you have to be in every single pitch of every at-bat, it’s entirely draining.

Given the need for heightened focus in games, we can’t allow ourselves to get caught up in the notion that we’re one win from the World Series. We certainly understand the significance of being in the position we’re in, with a chance to win the series back at Fenway. We feel like some things happened before we got on the road that kind of re-energized the fan base. We’re confident that they’re going to come out and support us, and we’ll do everything we can to win the series on Saturday.

But there are too many things that can happen to be diverted by something other than the task immediately at hand. When you are completely enveloped by one pitch, you don’t even think a batter ahead or two batters ahead. You are legitimately, wholly locked in on one pitch at a time. I think the benefit of that is it keeps you focused on execution. It doesn’t allow you to be overwhelmed by the big picture, the peripherals. You are as objective as you can possibly be, because the only thing you’re thinking about is delivering a pitch and executing.

And then getting sleep.

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