LEADING OFF: Curious pitching strategy in playoffs all over

Sports

Houston Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke is taken out of the game against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning in Game 4 of baseball’s American League Championship Series Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

A look at what’s happening around the majors on Wednesday:

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PITCHING IN

In a postseason already marked by curious pitching strategy, Julio Urías returns to his regular role in the rotation when the Los Angeles Dodgers play Atlanta in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Braves manager Brian Snitker says he’ll go with a bullpen game. After losing 6-5 on Tuesday night, he said he hadn’t decided who would start.

Urías led the majors with 20 wins this season while pitching 32 times, all as a starter. After starting and winning Game 2 of NL Division Series against San Francisco, he threw four key innings of relief in the deciding Game 5 victory over the Giants.

Urías then blew a late lead in relief in Game 2 of the NLCS, allowing Atlanta to eventually win. Los Angeles trails the series 2-1 going into this matchup at Dodger Stadium.

The 25-year-old lefty excelled as a starter and reliever in the postseason last year, helping the Dodgers win their first World Series championship since 1988.

Earlier this month, Dodgers ace Max Scherzer became the closer for a day, finishing off the Giants in Game 5.

On Tuesday night, the Boston Red Sox used Nathan Eovaldi in relief for the first time since 2019. Brought in to begin the ninth inning with the scored tied against Houston in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series, he gave up four runs. The Astros won 9-2 to even the matchup at two games each.

SWATTING STARTERS

Kyle Schwarber, Xander Bogaerts and the slugging Red Sox are making short work of opposing starting pitchers this postseason.

In nine playoff games so far, only once has a starter pitched even three full innings against Boston. Astros ace Zack Greinke became the latest to get chased, lasting only 1 1/3 innings Tuesday night at Fenway Park in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series.

Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan did the best against the Red Sox, going five innings in the opener of the AL Division Series.

Boston tagged Yankees star Gerrit Cole in the wild-card game to open the postseason.

The ALCS is tied at two games each going into Game 5 on Wednesday.

Framber Valdez will start for Houston. He gave up two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings during the series opener. Chris Sale will start for the Red Sox after allowing one run over 2 2/3 innings in Game 1.

DOMINANT DODGER

Three months after struggles caused him to lose the closer’s job temporarily, Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen is at the top of his game this October.

The 34-year-old right-hander has struck out 12 of the 17 batters he’s faced in the playoffs, pitching five scoreless innings in six games. Jansen is 2-0 with one save, allowing two hits and no walks.

After the Dodgers scored four times in the eighth to take the lead over Atlanta in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series, Jansen struck out Austin Riley, Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall in order on 17 pitches, reaching a high of 95.2 mph as Duvall fanned on a sinker.

Jansen’s save cut the Dodgers’ deficit to 2-1.

“You learn from when you have to deal with adversity and knowing that I didn’t have my best two years the last couple of years,” Jansen said last week. “I’m a more experienced pitcher now instead of being stubborn out there and just die with one pitch.”

STYLING WATCH

Astros manager Dusty Baker isn’t a fan of some of the styling that goes on among today’s players.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora rebuked Boston pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez for tapping a wrist with a six-run lead Monday night, mimicking the Game 1 celebration by Houston’s Carlos Correa.

Correa said “it’s just the way baseball should trend, moving forward.”

Baker, a two-time All-Star during a playing career from 1968-86, said Tuesday that “I’m past an opinion.”

“Back in my day you would have been probably pushing up daisies somewhere, you know what I mean?” he said. “It’s a new world, new day. There’s branding. There’s — I don’t know. I got a 22-year-old son. I try to get on him about, act like you have been there before, but, I mean, nobody seems to matter. So, I mean, what’s my opinion? I’m not going to — it’s too late for me to change the world.”

Cora said he wasn’t reacting to Correa.

“It’s not about him doing what Correa did. It’s about what we do. We don’t have to react to what the opposition do,” Cora said. “We celebrate. We enjoy what we do. We play with emotion, but reacting to what the opposition, what they do, it doesn’t — we haven’t done it in the past. We’re not going to start doing it now.”

Correa tapped his wrist again after hitting a leadoff double in the ninth inning of Game 4. He later scored the go-ahead run in a 9-2 win.

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