Somehow, the Red Sox found a way to win game 5of the ALCS, a game that they had no business winning. Down 7-0, the Red Sox methodically came back against the AL's best bullpen to stun the Rays and the baseball community. And you know what, the Sox owe it all to Joe Maddon...and here's why.
After Big Papi took Grant Balfour deep to make the score 7-4, Maddon decided to bring in Dan Wheeler, his closer, to face Kevin Youkilis in with two outs in the sixth inning. I understand bringing out Grant Balfour, who has been terrible this series, but to bring in his closer in the seventh inning? And did I mention that there was no one on base? What gives? Did Maddon really plan on having his closer go 2.1 innings tonight after pitching 3 innings in game 2? The game was not on the line here, but Maddon managed like an inexperienced, panicked manager.
Mr. Maddon, just because a playoff game is tight does not mean that you have to manage any differently that you have during the regular season. What ever happened to Chad Bradford? Isn't he the righty specialist who is supposed to come in during the middle innings? Bradford would have been a better selection here because there was no one on base and also, that's his role. Role definition is important, yet overrated, in baseball right now, but using Wheeler this early threw his bullpen out of whack and ultimately cost the Rays the game.
Final thought, if the Rays score in the top of the ninth, who would the Rays have turned to close out the game? Would it have been Howell, who has only 3 saves in his career? Or how about flame throwing lefty David Price, who has just arrived in majors a month ago? Bradford couldn't have been an option here because he cannot get lefties out. If the 2008 Mets have shown me anything, definition is important in the bullpen and Maddon blew it by not sticking to the game plan.
Let's hope Maddon and the Rays can turn it around in game 6. Or else my remote will be on notice for a launch threw the TV.