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Chess Match: Homers huge

Chess Match: Homers huge

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BOSTON -- Once again, there is no strategy for the big home run. However, there's plenty of strategy in trying to prevent them.

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While Rays manager Joe Maddon's decision to start Scott Kazmir instead of James Shields turned out stellar results, it was the Rays' usually dominant bullpen that turned out to be the question mark of Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The moves were nothing unusual for the Rays over the course of their season, but the results went far from planned.

Kaz and effect
The situation:
The Rays' victory in Game 4 Tuesday night gives them a chance to wrap up the series in Game 5.


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The decision: Maddon flips his starting pitchers, moving up Kazmir to start Game 5 at Fenway Park instead of Game 6 at Tropicana Field.

The outcome: Kazmir shuts down the Red Sox on two hits over six innings with seven strikeouts, taking advantage of an early lead.

The analysis: What some criticized as an open door for Boston to get back into the series ended up being a door Kazmir slammed shut with his performance. Maddon made the move with the idea of having his entire bullpen available should Kazmir need pulled early, but Kazmir's effectiveness left Maddon with his full relief arsenal for the final three innings.

Speaking of the bullpen
The situation:
Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka gives up five runs over his first three innings before retiring the side in order in the fourth. He leads off the fifth with a walk to Akinori Iwamura.


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The decision: Red Sox manager Terry Francona replaces Matsuzaka with setup man Hideki Okajima, then goes to closer Jonathan Papelbon in the seventh after Manny Delcarmen walks both batters he faces.

The outcome: Okajima turns in two scoreless innings for the second time this series. Papelbon gives up a two-run double to B.J. Upton, but recovers to retire the last five batters he faces.

The analysis: The Red Sox had nothing to lose, so why not? Once again, Okajima's long work proves critical in setting up the rest of the bullpen, despite Delcarmen's two walks. By the time rookie Justin Masterson had to work the ninth, the momentum of a tie game was fueling him.

Running Rays
The situation:
Back-to-back walks from Delcarmen put two runners on with nobody out in seventh inning of a 5-0 game with B.J. Upton at the plate and Papelbon entering.


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The decision: Maddon sends lead runner Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura on a double steal, putting runners at second and third with nobody out for Upton.

The outcome: With the Red Sox forced to play the infield in and pitch for the strikeout or ground ball, Upton instead drives a double off the scoreboard along the Green Monster, scoring both runners for a 7-0 lead.

The analysis: A five-run lead in the regular season would normally be the outer ranges of an acceptable time to steal and take extra bases. However, postseason baseball is an altogether different scenario, as Boston's late-inning comeback demonstrated.

Comeback Grant-ed
The situation:
Grant Balfour relieves Kazmir in the seventh inning and gives up three hits, including back-to-back two-out singles to bring up David Ortiz with two on and a 7-1 game.


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The decision: Maddon leaves the right-handed Balfour in the game to face the left-handed slugger Ortiz.

The outcome: Ortiz hits a three-run homer that puts the Red Sox back into the game at 7-4.

The analysis: Statistically, Maddon had every justification in sticking with Balfour, who held left-handed hitters to a .120 average this season. However, Balfour was struggling to finish the inning, and Ortiz had struggled for his career against lefties J.P. Howell and Trever Miller, neither of whom was warming up.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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