Blue Jays-Indians, Game 4 Notes

Much has been made of Cleveland’s bullpen usage during the postseason. The attention has been focused primarily on two things: Terry Francona’s willingness to deviate from traditional relief roles, and the lights-out performances of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller.

Not much has been said about the limited looks hitters have been getting against Indians pitchers.

Through seven games, an Indians starter has yet to face an opposing hitter four times in the same game. They’ve faced a hitter three times on just 25 occasions, and 19 of those belong to Corey Kluber. Third-time-through-the-order penalties haven’t been injurious. Red Sox and Blue Jays batters are a combined 3-for-22 with a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch in their third look. Francona has been masterful at pulling his starters at the right time.

He’s applied a similar approach with his management of Cleveland’s relievers. In Monday’s bullpen game, Francona flip-flopped what has been his postseason convention by using Cody Allen in the seventh, followed by Andrew Miller in a closing role. He had a reason.

“I wanted Cody to go through the heart of their order,” explained Francona. “He was going to have to, because Andrew did it the other day. I thought giving them a different look would be good.”

The earlier-inning bullpen usage was based largely on matchups. Francona wanted Jeff Manship to face right-handed hitters, and Zach McAllister — a righty with reverse splits — to face left-handed hitters. Neither was extended. Pitching in middle relief, Manship faced five batters, McAllister four.

Dan Otero, who relieved starter Trevor Bauer and faced five batters, understands the limited-look logic.

“I know that’s something sabermetricians have talked about,” Otero told me after the game, “It’s a good way to get through a lineup, and it’s what you saw tonight. None of us were allowed to face the same hitter twice. That can be challenging for the opposing team. It takes a unique kind of bullpen to do that, but that’s what we’ve got. [Francona] is doing a great job with how he’s using us.”


The Indians set an American League record in Game 3 by using seven pitchers in a postseason, nine-inning win. The National League record is eight, by the Cardinals in 2014 and the Cubs last year. Cleveland also became the first team to win a postseason game in which none of their pitchers worked two innings or more.


John Gibbons had kind words for Cleveland’s usual “closer” when asked before Monday’s game about Miller, and Francona’s bullpen usage.

“He’ll use it accordingly,” said the Toronto skipper. “How it matches up for them, workload, things like that. They did flip him [Monday] night. The thing, too… Cody Allen may get lost in that because of how good Miller has been. Cody has been one of the top guys out there. He’s no day at the beach, either.”


With his scoreless inning on Tuesday, Toronto’s Jason Grilli has now appeared in 16 postseason games without allowing a run. No other player has started his career with that many scoreless outings in the postseason.

Russell Martin is impressed.

“That’s incredible,” the Blue Jays backstop told me Tuesday night. “He loves the big situations. He feeds off of them. Whenever he comes into a game, and gets the job done, he comes back in the dugout and his energy is contagious. He’s not flustered in those moments. If he is, he does a great job of not showing it.”


Martin feels much the same about 24-year-old Aaron Sanchez, who held the Indians to one run in six innings on Tuesday in a do-or-die game.

“Sanchez was great, man,” said Martin. “It didn’t look like he was treating it like anything other than a regular start. I didn’t see him tense up. Every once in awhile he lost his own, but he was able to dial it back in as soon as the next hitter stepped in. He looked calm, composed, and in control.”


Following the game, Ezequiel Carrera was asked about grabbing his stomach after an eighth-inning triple. His answer came with a smile.

“They call me little fatty,” said the Blue Jays outfielder. “But they know I can run, so it’s just a joke between the guys and me.”


Marco Estrada faced the Indians once during the regular season, in early July. The outing will have no influence on how he approaches today’s ALCS Game 5. According to the Blue Jays righty, “That’s actually when the whole back issue flared back up, and I might have been throwing 82-83 mph. I was out there just trying to throw strikes and give the guys at least five innings. There’s really nothing to take from that game.”

Estrada threw 96 pitches that day in his five innings of work. He allowed three runs on five hits, including home runs by Rajai Davis and Carlos Santana. Per PITCHf/x, his fastball averaged 86.4 mph, a few ticks below the 88.1 he averaged over the course of the season


The Blue Jays have won at least four straight nine times this season. The Indians haven’t lost more than three straight.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Do you mean Estrada has faced Cleveland once this year, or once during the regular season? Cause he faced them in game 1 as well.