This piece, written by Baseball Prospectus’s Aaron Gleeman, forms part of the main site’s comprehensive coverage of the postseason, “Playoff Prospectus”.
Game 4 was anything but a managerial chess match at Wrigley Field, as Cleveland jumped out to an early lead and broke things open for good in the seventh inning on the way to a 7-2 win that puts the Cubs on the brink of elimination. However, there were no shortage of interesting pregame and midgame decisions on which to chew, including some that could have an impact in Game 5 and, if the Cubs win Sunday, beyond.
First and foremost is Terry Francona’s decision to start Corey Kluber on short rest, a plan that became apparent when the manager pulled his ace from Game 1 after just 88 pitches and six shutout innings. It lined up Kluber to start Game 4 and Game 7, both on three days’ rest, but also put him at risk of being less sharp than usual. That was the worry, at least. Kluber was outstanding in Game 4, whiffing six and walking one in six innings of one-run ball. Better yet, he used just 81 pitches to record 18 outs, at which point Francona pulled him in preparation for a potential Game 7 assignment.
Andrew Miller was warming up throughout the sixth inning, but Kluber recovered from Anthony Rizzo’s leadoff double to set down the next three hitters without incident, making rookie Willson Contreras look particularly overmatched in the process. Cleveland was up 4-1 and Miller was ready to go, but when Cleveland scored three runs in the next half-inning Francona had the opportunity to turn things over to lesser relievers and avoid adding to Miller’s heavy October workload. Instead no one else even warmed up and Miller came in for two innings and 27 pitches.
Miller will obviously be available for Game 5 and may even be available for multiple innings, but the question is whether having him throw 27 pitches in a second straight day of work makes him less likely to be at maximum effectiveness for a potential third straight day. By using Dan Otero instead of Cody Allen for the ninth frame Francona seemingly bought into the value of saving those bullets, so it’s likely that a big part of the decision with Miller came from not wanting to warm him up and then not use him, the not-so-technical term for which is, charmingly, a dry hump.
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Lead photo courtesy Jerry Lai—USA Today Sports.