No bull coming from these 'pens

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

DETROIT - Over the long haul, every baseball manager wants his starting pitchers going deep into every game to limit the exposure of his bullpen to the opponent’s lineup.

That is a proven avenue to success in a 162-game schedule.

The managers in this American League Championship Series, having no such longterm goals in mind, are strategizing in a totally different way.

When you have bullpens as good as the Rangers and the Tigers have, convention goes out the window.

The four starters in the first two games of this series averaged 4⅓ innings each. As a group, they had a collective earned run average of 5.71. The only runs that either bullpen allowed occurred in the 11th inning of Game 2 on Nelson Cruz’s game-winning grand slam.

Now, as hiccups go, that was a huge one by Tiger reliever Ryan Perry. But, taken as a whole, the relief pitching, especially on the Texas side, has been the story of the series.

Heading into the Detroit portion of the series, Texas manager Ron Washington was absolutely buoyant about the shape his bullpen is in.

“We’re in good shape. We still have three or four guys down there who haven’t been on the field so they’re fresh. If we get late in a ball game, we can run our winning pieces out there again. This is all about winning ball games.”

In the first two games of the series, the Ranger bullpen pitched 12⅔ innings, allowed five hits, three walks and no runs. Six pitchers shared this collective shutout.

That’s why Washington didn’t hesitate when he saw starter Derek Holland struggling to throw quality strikes in the third inning Monday. He called on Scott Feldman out of the bullpen and all Feldman did was pitch four shutout innings before handing off to the power arms of Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz.

“It can’t last forever,” Washington conceded. “But until I see something different, I’ll go with the hot hand every time.”


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