Sometimes, a manager or player leaves a small nugget at a post-season press conference that is much more meaningful than it initially appears.
“We don’t write that – it’s kind of a popular saying,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said late Friday afternoon when Cleveland led an unprecedented use of Emmanuel Clase closer by completing a 4-2, 10 innings win. on the Yankees who drew their AL Division Series in one game each.
It is also a way of saying that most teams these days are writing it and that the Guardians are an anomaly in modern Major League Baseball, run by a front office that actually entrusts its manager with the task of running the game. nine innings. (and possibly beyond). That’s why Francona – positioning him as a solid future Hall of Famer sure – continues to manage despite his acknowledgments that work has become more difficult for him following a number of health problems.
But while the Guardians front office doesn’t write the game’s script for Francona, the skipper definitely has a dog-eared book that he responds to for a playoff match like Friday’s – and almost as important, for everyone who precedes him. .
The use of Clase Friday – when the closest pitched the last 2 and 1/3 innings – was reminiscent of Francona’s 2007 deployment of Jonathan Papelbon, when Francona managed the Red Sox to their second league in four years.
“Oh boy, I can barely remember last week,” the ever-deadpan Francona said when asked about comparisons with Papelbon.
Clase and Papelbon are not the same – on Tuesday Francona praised Clase’s cold demeanor, which, uhh, is not something that will never be said about Papelbon – and these Guardians, champions of the only division to send only one team to the playoffs. , do not have the expectations of those Red Sox, who entered the 2007 playoffs with 96 wins, the most draws in the majors.
But any chance the Guardians have of staging a deep playoff series involves relying heavily on Clase after a regular season in which Francona carefully managed its use.
Clase hasn’t pitched more than one inning in any of his 77 outings this season, when he led the majors with 42 saves, the fifth highest total in a single season in Cleveland history. The only other pitcher to record at least 10 saves without ever recording more than three outs in any appearance was Josh Hader, who collected 36 saves for Brewers and Padres.
Clase entered the playoffs after recording four or more eliminations in one appearance only nine times in 169 regular season games, most recently when he recorded a four-elimination save against the Red Sox on September 5, 2021. He pitched up to two innings only three times, the last in a loss to the Astros on July 4, 2021.
Fifteen years ago, when Papelbon had 37 saves – at the time the fifth highest total of a season in Red Sox history – he was used for more than three outs just four times in 59 regular season games and recorded three saves. at least four outs, tied for 11th place in the majors.
But Papelbon has pitched more than one innings in all but one of his seven post-season appearances. He went 1-0 with four saves and did not allow a run in the playoffs by limiting opposing batters to an average of .135.
History began to repeat itself for Clase, who earned a four out saved in the opening of the Guardians wild card series against the Rays on October 7. On Friday, James Karinchak came in relief with heavy bases, two outs and a tie score in the eighth inning. Clase, throwing 100mph cutter and 93mph slider, led Kyle Higashioka to line up in third place before working on Anthony Rizzo’s single two in ninth.
Afterward, Francona said he would go to another pitcher if the game remained tied in 10th. But the Guardians scored two goals in the top half and Clase – throwing “only” 98 mph cutters and 91 mph sliders – led Josh Donaldson to take out one before sniffing out Oswaldo Cabrera and convincing Isiah Kiner-Falafa to beat.
“Unbelievable – I assume that’s the longest time he’s gone,” said Guardians starter Shane Bieber. “A victory and a rescue”.
(Bieber marveled again that Clase gained a win and a save later in his post-match scrum, for the record, Clase was “only” credited with the win)
“Maybe he was a little fatigued there in 10th place, but a fatigued Clase is still bossy,” said Bieber. “No one else wants to quit our games, that’s for sure.”
And at this time of year, there is no better book for Francona than the one it was based on ten and a half years ago.
“If it’s not in a dangerous zone, if it still looks effective, we can send it back out,” said Francona di Clase, who ended up throwing 33 jumps, just four more than Karinchak threw to get his. two out. “If we hadn’t scored, we wouldn’t have sent him back. But when we scored, that’s why we sent it.
“Try to make the best decisions you can.”