By Ted Gay – @TedG63

The question you can’t avoid hearing if you listen to sports radio, which might just be the enemy of the people is if you are “all in” with this Red Sox team.

I have been “all in” since I was four years old.  Since Luis Aparicio fell going around third base, Carlton Fisk’s pole shot, Joe Morgan’s single to center,  Bucky Dent, Chico Walker replacing Yaz in left, Clemens’ first 20 K game, Dave Henderson’s two homers, Mookie Wilson’s one ground ball, Morgan Magic, Mo Vaughn at the Foxy Lady, Pedro on the bump at Yankee Stadium, Aaron Boone, Dave Roberts, Big Papi, the bloody sock,  D Lowe, “Folke has it and tosses to first,” JD Drew’s 70 million grand slam, Shipping Up to Boston, Carl Crawford, chicken and beer, Bobby V, our fucking city, Papi’s grand slam, Koji’s pickoff, Victorino’s double, Hanley, Pablo, Sale Days, JD and Mookie.

I expect, reader, that you too are a Red Sox fan who went “all in” years ago.  If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be wasting time reading a blog written by someone you don’t know and often disagree with.  We are “all in” deep during the best of times and the worst of times.

The first five months of this season has been some of the best times imaginable.  The concern all season has been that the bullpen will end this magical run with a few ill-advised pitches in the late innings of a deciding game.  That fear, while still in play, has been surpassed by the thought of the Sox trying to win three series without Chris Sale playing the role of Madison Bumgarner.

With a healthy Sale, if every team in the playoffs played to their potential, which seldom happens, the Red Sox would win the World Series.  Without Sale, the Sox are going to have to be perfect, and their opponents play below their talent level. It is not impossible. The only year the Red Sox had baseball’s best team and won the Series was in 2007, and they had to come back from being down 3-1 to the Indians.

As for the bullpen, the eternal talk radio question is who will pitch the seventh and eighth.  The Sports Hub’s Jim Murray refers to the bullpen as a wheel of gutless bums ironically unable to see the accurate measure of a gutless person is baseless name calling of someone you will never meet.  While the Sox bullpen has been shaky all season, there is no way you can be on pace to shatter your franchise win record with a bullpen filled with gutless bums.

If you are wondering who will be the seventh and eighth inning guys you have not been paying attention to Alex Cora.  He is going to rely on the numbers to decide who pitches when. If Matt Barnes is needed in the fifth, that’s where he will pitch.  If Barnes is in the bullpen and the numbers show Heath Hembree is best for the situation in the eighth Hembree is getting the ball.  It is a dangerous philosophy but also a gutsy one. Cora was brought in to make the hard decisions, and he was done it to great success.  Don’t expect him to change for the playoffs.

The biggest question is who will be in the bullpen.  Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright are close to coming back.  If Sale returns as a starter either those two or Nathan Eovaldi could be relieving, and that changes the entire bullpen.  The most useless pitcher on a playoff roster is the Game 4 starter. Given the circumstances, he might not pitch, and if he does, it’s for five innings.  Would the Sox be better off having Brian Johnson pitch game four and keeping the more valuable arms in the pen? With a healthy Sale, the bullpen could have Eovaldi, Wright, and Rodriguez while Hembree and Joe Kelly find themselves on the wrong side of the playoff roster.

And what if Sale can’t come back 100 percent back but can pitch an inning or two a game? What a presence he would be at the back of the bullpen throwing everything he had into one inning.  Preferably Sale is a starter. Purposefully putting him in the bullpen is like not playing Tom Brady until the fourth quarter. But I would take a limited Chris Sale over anyone else we could put on the hill late in the game sans Kimbrell.

Through a series of injuries, the Red Sox keep marching forward racking up wins.  Sunday’s loss to Tampa was the first missed Sale start that ended with an L and given the lack of offense the best Sale could have got them is a tie after nine.

Yes, the Red Sox have more questions than they did a month ago, but solving the game’s riddles is part of the joy of winning.  No Red Sox championship season has even been easy, why should this one be any different?



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