Boston Red Sox

By Matt McCarthy,

Perhaps it was forced, perhaps it was planned all along, or perhaps Alex Cora had simply seen enough from the usual suspects.

It doesn’t matter what led to his decision to go to his Game 3 starter, Rick Porcello, in the eighth inning of Game 1. What matters is he made the right move.

It’s clear that Cora needs to implement the same formula again. Putting the ball in the hands of his starting pitchers out of the bullpen is the only chance the Red Sox have to salvage the late innings in October.

Maybe Porcello never would have seen the game had Steven Wright’s knee not flared up again. Maybe Cora recognized in the moment that he could not let Game 1 slip away and had to pull out all the stops to try and save it. Maybe it was a secret plan devised weeks ago.

It doesn’t matter how the plan came to be. It worked. My god, something in the bullpen worked.

Do it again.

The argument could be made that Porcello got the two biggest outs of the ballgame, stabilizing a bullpen that was teetering on the brink of disaster and providing a bridge to Craig Kimbrel.

Who knows how the eighth inning would have gone had Cora spun the Wheel of Gutless Bums again?

Oct 5, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Rick Porcello (22) throws the ball during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees in game one of the 2018 NLDS playoff baseball series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to put the Wheel away for good. No more Ryan Brasier, or Joe Kelly, or Matt Barnes, or Brandon Workman. Heath Hembree is taking Wright’s spot on the roster, I don’t want to see him either.

For the Red Sox, it should be all starters, all the time, from here on out, however Cora can get them in the game.

It’s Cora’s job to get the ball in the hands of his best five pitchers as many times as possible, no matter how unconventional the approach may be.

There should be no such thing as a side session for a Red Sox starting pitcher this October. A normal side day should become a setup day.

For the rest of this series, Nathan Eovaldi should be the setup man for Game 2, Eduardo Rodriguez should be first out of the bullpen for high-leverage situations in Game 3, and David Price should serve as the late innings option for Game 4 on two days rest, or Game 5 on full rest

The only pitcher Cora should avoid out of the bullpen, for the time being, is Chris Sale. His arm needs to be preserved to get him through October. He can’t handle the extra workload.

The remaining starters will need to take on the additional appearances.

Pitch them until their arms fall off. They can rest in November.

Game 1 proved what we already know: if Cora relies on his traditional bullpen options, this team will fail in October.

Rick Porcello saved the Red Sox from disaster Friday night. It’s time to put the Porcello blueprint into effect.

It’s the best bet the Red Sox have.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.