When comparing the rosters of the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, it quickly became clear the Rays’ best chance to win the series would be on the backs of their starters. The biggest weakness on the Rays roster is the bullpen, so forcing high pitch counts early in the game is a great way to start the game with a tactical edge.
In Game 1, the Red Sox forced Matt Moore to throw 18 pitches through four hitters. While Moore got out of the inning unscathed on the scoreboard, the top of the lineup forced him to use each of the pitches in his repertoire, which quickly came back to bite him. Moore only made it through 4.1 innings while giving up eight runs, and forced an early dip into the bullpen.
The next night, the Red Sox got to David Price early, putting up two runs and forcing him to throw 19 pitches. Price did end up getting through seven innings on 102 pitches, but he was on the ropes very early and became forced to pound the strike zone, which allowed Red Sox hitters to make plenty of good contact and put up seven runs.
Now, 18 and 19 pitches might not seem like a huge deal, but making a pitcher work early in the game and driving up the pitch count quickly becomes a tactical nightmare in a short series. Should the Rays find a way to win the next two games at home, but the Red Sox continue to force high pitch counts, Game 5 would feature a pitcher that has recently been knocked around and a bullpen that will likely be taxed.
The Red Sox would like to wrap things up in Tampa on Monday or Tuesday and have the ability to start the ALCS with Jon Lester, and continuing to force high pitch counts is a good way to make sure that happens.