Craig Breslow’s Playoff Blog: No reason to change our approach now
|10.29.13 at 3:39 pm ET|
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 also is 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.
Back in my first stint with the Red Sox in 2006-07, I pitched with Jon Lester in Triple-A and the big leagues. I remember there being a couple of rumored trades that potentially involved him — one involving Johan Santana — and thinking, “If I were a GM, would I trade him?”
He was young, but you could see he obviously had great stuff, a power arm and great poise. I never reached a conclusion about whether or not I’d make the trade, but I certainly realized he had the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation guy.
He’s certainly been that for us, especially in the playoffs. Coming out of spring training, this team has been led by dominant starting pitching. Guys have passed the torch to one another as to who is the No. 1 starter. Right out of the gate, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey were throwing the ball great. Jon really picked us up right around the All-Star break and has been a bona fide ace ever since.
Much has been made of the starters that we’ve faced throughout the postseason, but Jon deserves to be mentioned ahead of any of the guys you talk about. Everything we’ve asked of him, he’s given us.
In Game 5, with the series tied, 2-2, Jon quietly went out there and I would say he threw the game of his life. But how many times can you throw the game of your life? The way he’s carried himself throughout the postseason has been really impressive. It doesn’t come as a surprise to hear that he has one of the best postseason ERAs of all time, or that Koji Uehara tied the postseason saves record.
But I’ve never thought about quantifying their performances. I know that we’ve played low-scoring, stressful, mentally draining games, and that both of them have had to perform at exceptional levels to help us sustain what we’ve done so far as a team. I’ve simply appreciated them on a qualitative level. I know Jon has thrown the ball really well. I know he’s been everything we’ve needed him to be this postseason. Likewise, I know that when we’ve given Koji a lead, he’s held it down for us.
During the games, it can be difficult to appreciate fully how well they’re performing — particularly when Jon is pitching, since I have to be focused on the game situation and what it means for me in terms of being prepared to follow him into the game. Once Koji gets the ball, though, my time has kind of passed, and then you just think about winning the game. But sometimes before I go to sleep at night, I’ll replay the key points in the game, and that’s when you’ll realize how impressive their performances truly have been.
The way Jon was pitching on Monday, managing his pitch count, it seemed like he had a chance to finish the game out. And then once Koji got up, the rest of us in the bullpen understood that it was probably Jon getting the ball to Koji or Jon finishing the game himself, and there’s some relief when you recognize that pattern. Obviously, all of us in the bullpen are ready to impact the game, but the ideal scenario is your starter gets the ball to your closer or the starter finishes the game himself — especially when you’ve got a starter and closer as good as those two.
Now, we’re one win away from winning the World Series, closing in on the goal that we strive for, and for what we set out to do on Day One of spring training. Yet this proximity can’t change how we approach Game 6.
There’s winning the World Series and not winning the World Series, and being this close to winning is inconsequential. We need to approach the game the same way that we have since the start of the season: We need to win. The ability to focus on that task — regardless of what may have happened the previous game, whether a dramatic win or a crushing loss; regardless of the implications of a win or a loss in front of us — is what makes this team unique and what has gotten us to this point. There’s no reason to change that approach now.
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