Red Sox pitchers have been warned: One postseason pitch can make all the difference

Rob Bradford
October 12, 2013 - 6:22 am

One pitch in the postseason can mean everything. It'€™s a reality Oakland'€™s Sonny Gray uncovered in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, when he went against script and tried to get a fastball in on Detroit'€™s Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers'€™ slugger, who had struggled with the outside corner all series, promptly launched the offering into the left field stands for a game (and series) changing two-run homer run. Just one pitch. That'€™s all. Welcome to the stress of the postseason. Just ask Detroit'€™s Justin Verlander, who earned the Game 5 win with eight spectacular innings. '€œI feel it today,'€ the Tigers'€™ starter said. '€œYou can definitely tell there'€™s a lot more intensity and a lot more involved in every single pitch you throw. My body tells me that because when I'€™m done I'€™m physically and mentally exhausted.'€ Was he more sore Friday than the days after his regular season starts? '€œYes,'€ Verlander said with a smile. '€œDefinitely.'€ The Red Sox could watch that Gray pitch and sympathize. Virtually all hurlers who have pitched in the playoffs have that one pitch they still want back. For Clay Buchholz, it was in Game 3 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay when he let Evan Longoria tie the game at 3-3 via a three-run blast. A base was open with runners on second and third, the count was 0-1 and Buchholz thought he knew the correct pitch to throw '€“ a changeup, down-and-in. '€œThe one to Longo the other night,'€ said Buchholz when asked what his one regrettable pitch was. '€œI went to the well one too many times. I'€™ve thrown that pitch to him over the last four years and he has either popped up, taken for a strike or swung and missed. That'€™s what good hitters do, they adapt. '€¦ It wasn'€™t bad pitch, but maybe not the right pitch for that situation. I was trying to bury, but didn'€™t bury it.'€ While Buchholz'€™ one pitch was just five days ago, Jake Peavy remembers his being seven years ago. '€œIn San Diego in 2006, Albert Pujols hit a ball behind home plate, popped up, and Piazza wasn'€™t able to handle the ball,'€ said Peavy, referencing his previous playoff appearance prior to this season. '€œA pitch later he hit a two-run homer in the bullpen which untied that ballgame and led to the demise of us. You certainly understand one miscue defensively, mentally or physically pitching can cost you these ballgames.'€ The memory is a reminder of what will continue to hold true throughout the upcoming American League Championship Series. '€œYou know that going in,'€ said Peavy regarding the pitfalls of one bad postseason pitch. '€œIt just feels different when you know one pitch, one play swings the whole outcome of the game. Look at Jhonny Peralta two nights ago, when you have the Tigers dead to rights, he hits a three-run homer and that changed the whole series. We certainly understand that.'€ Go down the line of Red Sox pitchers and you'€™ll keep finding these sort of stories. '€œI remember against Boston I lost and gave up a two-run homer,'€ said Red Sox starter John Lackey, referencing a pitch thrown to Jason Bay in Game 1 of the 2008 ALDS. '€œPretty much one pitch can get it done this time of year. '€¦ I should have thrown him another breaking ball.'€ And now, with the most prolific scoring team in the majors this season, staring at them in the face for the ALCS, those singular pitches take on an even increased level of importance. There'€™s the strategy from pitch-to-pitch '€¦ '€œI think it'€™s of utmost importance that while you'€™re facing the meat of the order,'€ Peavy said, '€œyou have to do everything you can to get Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson in front of them out because you have a whole you have a better chance of missing a pitch when a guy is on first base when your attention is split between the two as opposed to not having runners on base.'€ And there'€™s the execution '€¦ '€œIt'€™s location over velocity with this team,'€ Buchholz said. '€œIf you miss with a pitch, make sure it'€™s off the plate and not middle. I think that'€™s where a lot of people get hurt in pitching to these guys.'€