The World Series isn’t an ideal time to thrust players into unique roles. Then again, Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch probably felt like he didn’t have much choice in Game 3. With his bullpen performing far less than reliably throughout the postseason, he had to play the hand or combination of hands he felt most confident in to secure the final 11 outs.
The first hand he played was that of Brad Peacock. The 29-year-old right-hander is a starter by trade, though one who has also made 26 relief appearances during his six-year career.
Hinch might as well have laid a Full House on the table. It was the only hand he needed as Peacock mowed down the Dodgers to wrap up Houston’s 5-3 victory.
What a story, too. On baseball’s biggest stage, Peacock was asked to bridge the gap from starter Lance McCullers, who had pitched admirably to get Houston into the sixth inning, to the closer, probably Ken Giles but Hinch could have easily played matchups.
What challenges that might present Peacock didn’t know for sure. He just knew he needed to get outs to help his manager and his ballclub in a pivotal game. What he ended up providing was something far above and beyond that. The Dodgers couldn’t muster a run against Peacock, let alone a hit as he completed the first save of his career and the first save of its kind in the World Series.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 28, 2017
The most important 3.2 innings of Peacock’s career were arguably his best, which motivated Hinch to ride the hot hand to the finish line.
“It’s about getting 27 outs,” Hinch said of his decision to stick with Peacock. “At this point if they didn’t see Peacock pitching well, then they should watch the game, too. I love our bullpen, and our bullpen is going to get outs, but this is a race to 27 outs with a lead. When a guy is doing his job, there’s only so much explanation I need to give.
Yes, even when pushing the right buttons, a manager is asked to thoroughly explain his decisions. As Hinch noted, there wasn’t much of a decision to make here. Peacock was dealing.
“Peacock there because he was the right guy at the right spot against that part of the order. We felt like his strengths matched up against some places we want to exploit in the strike zone. And why keep him in is if we all watched the game, it was pretty obvious, he was cruising. Their swings weren’t good. His fastball was playing, his slider was playing. This postseason I’ve really enjoyed bringing back the three-inning save; that’s cool.”
That’s a reference to Game 7 of the ALCS when Hinch used McCullers in a similar fashion. McCullers is also typically a starter, but Hinch used him to get the final 12 outs to finish off the Yankees.
He was mostly joking about bringing back the three-inning save, but he’s quite serious when it comes to breaking the usual managerial patterns and traditions if he feels it gives his team the best chance to win. The decision to stick with Peacock might not back up the statements that he has confidence in his bullpen, but that’s a problem for Game 4. He did what he had to do to secure Game 3, and it worked. It really worked.
Hinch certainly deserves credit for his gutsy call, but the real credit goes to Peacock. He not only embraced the challenge, he owned the moment and positioned his team to take control of the series on Saturday. Considering the roller coaster that his season has been, there’s probably not a pitcher in this series that appreciated the mere opportunity more than he did.
“The season has meant a lot,” Peacock said after the game. “I’ve said it before many times, I don’t think I was going to make the team in Spring Training. And someone got hurt and I just had a save in the World Series. It’s unbelievable, man. I’m never going to forget this, ever. It’s been a lot of fun this year. I learned a lot from everybody. And it’s just been a lot of fun.”
Knowing everything that’s gone through Peacock’s mind this season makes his performance all the more special. If the Astros end up winning the World Series, he’ll have gone from an afterthought in his own mind to the pitcher who provided a milestone performance that will be remembered fondly for generations to come in Houston.
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