The 119th World Series awaits and it's a first-time matchup. The Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks have never squared off in the Fall Classic before, but it's going to change this Friday when the first pitch is thrown in Arlington's Globe Life Park.
Speaking of pitches, one of the storylines these days for any postseason series revolves around the use of the starting pitchers. That is, the old-school mentality is that starting pitchers should be going six, seven or even more innings per start. There's a newer-school mindset that says pitchers shouldn't see a batting order three times and some of them should avoid seeing the hitters a second time.
How the starting pitchers are used depends on the manager, of course, and there's been a lot of credit given to Rangers manager Bruce Bochy for being more old school and letting his pitchers work deeper into games.
The problem is this isn't fully true. For Bochy, it depends on the pitcher. Same with Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo. Both can totally be "old school" when the situation calls for it while also having shown the ability to use a new-school quick hook when the scouting report -- or box score -- says to do so.
Let's take a look at the starting pitching situation for both teams.
Jordan Montgomery - He threw seven innings in his first playoff start and worked into the seventh in Game 1 of the ALCS. He labored through four-plus innings in Game 2 of the ALDS. He also threw 2 1/3 innings in Game 7 of the ALCS. The most pitches Montgomery has thrown in the playoffs is 93, so while he's not extreme, he's close to a throwback workhorse for Bochy.
Nathan Eovaldi - In four playoff starts, Eovaldi's shortest outing was six innings, which came in Game 2 of the ALCS. Let's zero in on that game to illustrate how Bochy feels with him on the mound. The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth with the Rangers up 5-2. This is where so many managers would've pulled the starting pitcher and tasked a "put out the fire" reliever with getting out of the jam. Bochy left Eovaldi out there and the result was two strikeouts and a weak groundout. In the sixth, Eovaldi got in trouble again and, again, Bochy left him out there. Keep this in mind during Eovaldi's start(s) in the World Series.
Max Scherzer - He hasn't looked all the way back from injury just yet. He allowed five runs in four innings in Game 3 and then two runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings in Game 7. If he throws well, I could see Bochy giving him a bit more leash, but nothing like Eovaldi. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone like Martín Pérez or Jon Gray used in tandem with Scherzer in the World Series. Much like ...
Andrew Heaney/Dane Dunning - On the opposite end of the spectrum from Eovaldi would be Heaney. Bochy pulled him after just two outs in Game 4 of the ALCS and went to Dunning for length. Even when Heaney is throwing well, such as Game 1 of the ALDS in Baltimore, Bochy still hooked him before the fourth inning was complete and followed him with Dunning. This is where it's funny to hear people discuss Bochy as this bastion of old-school managing who never looks at numbers or pieces of paper with information on them. Of course he does. He trusts Montgomery and Eovaldi to get out of jams and work deep into games, but he knows when he needs to have a quick hook. He's proven that with Heaney.
Zac Gallen - The All-Star Game starter has worked at least five innings in all four of his playoff starts despite being overall pretty shaky with a 5.24 ERA. If Gallen is going well, I would expect Lovullo to operate similarly to how Bochy has with Montgomery and Eovaldi. So long as Gallen does his job and pitches like an ace, we'll see a so-called old-school approach here.
Merrill Kelly - If there was one move that appeared curious from Lovullo in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS, it was pulling Kelly after five innings when the pitcher looked like he was settled in and was arguably dominating the Phillies hitters. The D-backs had a formula drawn up, however, and Lovullo stuck with the script. Kelly was pulled after five despite having allowed only one run with eight strikeouts. It's entirely possible we'll see a similar approach in Kelly's World Series start(s).
Brandon Pfaadt - The rookie was inconsistent this season, but also showed signs of his immense upside on several occasions. The Diamondbacks might've missed the playoffs if not for his 5 1/3 scoreless innings against the Cubs on Sept. 15, for example. After a disastrous start in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, he's really settled in. He's given up two runs on eight hits in 14 innings since then. He's struck out 16 in his past two starts. Still, he won't be trusted to go deep into games. In Game 3 of the NLCS, he was dealing and was pulled after 5 2/3 innings and just 70 pitches. In Game 7, he threw 64 pitches in four innings of work before turning things over to the bullpen. Expect a new-school approach here.
Bullpen game - It doesn't get anymore new school than a bullpen game and that's what the Diamondbacks used in Game 4 of the NLCS. I'd expect the same thing this coming series. The D-backs had bullpen issues through much of the regular season, but they've really got something going with the group led by Paul Sewald, Kevin Ginkel, Andrew Saalfrank and Ryan Thompson here in the postseason. Of that group, only Ginkel was on the big-league roster in July. Sewald was acquired on trade deadline day, Thompson was nabbed after the Rays released him and Saalfrank made his MLB debut on Sept. 5.