I've ranted about reliever usage in the playoffs before, but as usual, MLB managers continue to listen to their gut and not the advice I generously offer them for free.
So far, only one manager has really aced the test--albeit accidentally--by putting his relief ace in an unorthodox spot when it really counted. Lou Piniella correctly put his best pitcher in to protect a critical tie game in the seventh. When Carlos Marmol lost the game for the Cubs, Lou's reward was media criticism for "pulling Carlos Zambrano too soon," even though he was quite correct to do so with Big Z on track to start Game 4 on short rest and Marmol ready to go two innings.
The Diamondbacks get a pass too; they made the obvious moves with their bullpen last night, but were correct in doing so. As for the Red Sox, it's certainly hard to argue with leaving Josh Beckett in to complete the game.
Other teams are getting it all wrong. The Rockies brought in Manny Corpas to get out of a jam in the eighth, which was fine. Then they left him in for the ninth inning to "protect" a 10-5 lead. Would the Rockies have brought Corpas into the game at the start of the ninth leading by 5 runs? Probably not, because that wouldn't have been a save situation, and Corpas wouldn't have had the inertia of being in the game already. But that's how Clint Hurdle wants to do it, so more power to him. At least the Phillies seemed to get it, as they saved Tom Gordon and Brett Myers once the game was out of reach.
The Indians used their three best relievers--three of the best in baseball this year--to protect a lead that started at six runs and eventually reached nine. Technically, they didn't bring their Proven Closer in, but Eric Wedge may be the only person on the planet who still thinks Joe Borowski is better bet to hold a small lead than Rafael Betancourt or Rafael Perez.
I can't get too upset with the Yankees--it's not like they used Joba or Rivera to hold the Tribe's lead at 9--but they did throw Phil Hughes out there for two innings, and I can't see anyone challenging Hughes as the third-best arm in that pen. This isn't a big deal, but there was no reason for this move.
Cubs just took a 2-0 lead, so back to focusing my attention on the game. Go Cubbies!