ST. LOUIS (AP) - Mike Adams has already fielded plenty of phone calls this week, usually friends or family members wishing the Rangers reliever luck against the Cardinals in the World Series.
The boldest of them even try to score tickets to Game 1.
Adams admits that he doesn’t have much experience handling all the fanfare _ this is his first playoff trip in seven big league seasons. But he certainly knows how to answer the phone.
The one in the bullpen has been ringing nonstop.
Yes, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are the homer-hitting stars. C.J. Wilson and Chris Carpenter are the staff aces in the spotlight Wednesday night. But it’s the guys in the bullpens, the ones who have been called on so often to bail out Texas and St. Louis in their march through the playoffs, who could ultimately decide who wins this World Series.
“How many championships do you find where the bullpen is going to be critical to the outcome?” Adams asked, genuinely seeking an answer. “Not many.”
Texas starters are lugging around a 5.62 ERA in the playoffs. Wilson has been hammered in each of his three starts. Yet those guys out in the bullpen have jogged in every time manager Ron Washington has dialed their number and promptly pitched out of trouble.
In knocking off the Detroit Tigers to win the AL pennant, Texas became the second team since best-of-seven series were introduced to have relievers earn all four wins. The Cardinals joined the club the very next day when they beat the Milwaukee Brewers to punch their World Series ticket.
Tony La Russa called on his bullpen 28 times in the NL championship series, and St. Louis became the first team to win a postseason series without a starter reaching the sixth inning.
“That’s the thing about Tony, he’s not afraid of pitching anybody in any situation,” said left-hander Marc Rzepczynski. “When that phone rings, we’re all ready.”
It’s no surprise relief pitching has been such a focus this postseason.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels learned the importance of it last year, when he watched his relief corps collapse in the World Series. They were pounded for three runs in the eighth inning of Game 1 against San Francisco, allowed seven runs in the eighth inning in Game 2, and gave up two more runs in the last three innings of Game 4.
The Giants bullpen, by comparison, allowed three runs total over five games.
So, Daniels traded for Adams and fellow right-hander Koji Uehara just before the July 31 deadline, and added left-hander Michael Gonzalez from Baltimore at the end of August.