#4 Texas Rangers bullpen vs Tampa Bay bullpen
If you are a fan of the Texas Rangers then you are keenly aware of the struggles that the Rangers bullpen has had throughout this season. I am sure that as a fan of the Texas Rangers, there is not as much familiarity with how much Tampa's bullpen has struggled. Tampa did have 45 saves on the season far more than Texas' 30, but they blew 31 saves compared to Texas' 33. I definitely believe this series will come down to who can close out games.
The closer question for Texas has seemingly been settled with Jose Leclerc. In critical situations both on Thursday and Saturday it was Leclerc who was sent out to get those outs and not Aroldis Chapman. Leclerc whose fastball is back up to 98-99mph has been dominant in the month of September. It would appear that the late innings would likely be manned by Sborz or Hernandez in the seventh, Chapman in the eighth, and then Leclerc for the ninth. Do not be surprised if Heaney or Perez pitches in some of those situations. Texas' bullpen is improved just based on better personnel now than they did earlier in the season and earlier in September.
Tampa's bullpen has been cycled through with numerous pitchers. They have used 32 different pitchers in the bullpen this season. They do still have a lethal combo at the end of the game with Pete Fairbanks, Jason Adams, Colin Poche, and Robert Stephenson. If Tampa has a lead late do not think Texas will be able to score against those pitchers. Tampa's weakness seems to be in the middle innings. That is where they are most vulnerable. It will be on Texas to work at-bats early against the starters and get to that bullpen in the middle innings. If Texas can do that in these two or three games they can take advantage and create some distance between themselves and Tampa.
Ultimately the biggest matchup as far as bullpens will be between Kevin Cash and Bruce Bochy. It will be about how they deploy their bullpen, who they use, and when they choose to go to the bullpen. That is where the games will ultimately be decided in the minds of the managers for both of these franchises. I think Texas has the advantage there, but Kevin Cash has been in the playoffs more often recently compared to Bochy's last postseason appearance being in 2016. Bochy does have the three World Series.
This series will be determined by these four matchups and much more. As a fan enjoy this run and know that this is just the beginning of a competitive window for Texas and not the end.