One of the most enjoyable parts of watching the postseason is seeing how different the games are than the regular season.
While NFL playoff games are one-offs, so are regular season games.
In baseball, strategy is so different, and so are outcomes.
At Tropicana Field, the Tampa Bay Rays, trying to keep their season alive, emptied their bench, losing their designated hitter when right fielder Wil Myers was hurt. Backup catcher Jose Lobaton hit a game-winner off Koji Uehara in the bottom of the ninth to force a fourth game.
Moments before Lobaton’s home run, TBS’ John Smoltz said that Uehara was in the game as a two-inning pitcher. He’d gotten the first two outs in the bottom of ninth.
During the regular season, Uehara wouldn’t work two innings. He was a superb one-inning pitcher, but in the postseason, great relievers often work two innings.
With a one-run lead in the eighth, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez declined to call for the National League’s best closer, Craig Kimbrel. If Juan Uribe hits a two-run homer in the regular season off David Carpenter, Gonzalez’s strategy isn’t questioned.
With Atlanta’s season now over, Gonzalez’s strategy is questioned.
Kimbrel got one four-out save in the regular season. He did the same in Game 2. He never got the chance in Game 4.
You don’t need a fifth starter in the postseason, and relievers won’t ever have to work more than three straight days. With a solid catcher, the backup won’t play. It is different. It’s also a lot of fun.