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The Red Sox now own a 2-0 lead in the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays and have demonstrated prolific offensive prowess, solid starting pitching, and lock down relief pitching. However, as the post season continues to unfold, it is the starting pitching staff that will prove to be more crucial than anything else.
Starting pitching is what puts pressure on opposing offenses, but also keeps pressure off of the (still) shorthanded Boston bullpen, which has been the key to the Red Sox success all season long.
Losing Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Andrew Miller was a terrifying thought, and if it weren’t for a dominant season of starting pitching for the Red Sox, this short-handed bullpen would likely have been exposed and exploited. However, with guys like John Lackey, Jon Lester, and Felix Doubront managing to eat up 565 innings throughout the season, a world of pressure was taken off of the bullpen and that resulted in success.
The relief pitchers that remained after the injuries, like Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow, and Junichi Tazawa, weren’t forced to come in and clean up messy starts on a nightly basis and were able to rise to the occasion and capitalize on the opportunities they were given.
After a season of work, this trio managed to develop into one of the regular season’s best set-up and closer committees combining for an ERA of 2.00 over 202.1 while striking out 206 batters. With these solid arms in the bullpen, Boston found its solution, and the picture is no different this post season. The only difference is the bolstered pitching rotation that has come with the acquisition of former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy and the return of the right-handed stopper Clay Buchholz.
Peavy and Buchholz, along with teammates Lester and Lackey, will need to continue to eat up innings and pitch deep into games in order for Boston to protect the leads that their potent offense has been getting them.
After two games, starting pitching has taken care of 13 out of the 18 innings pitched. That type of coverage will need to continue if the Sox want to extend their post-season run.