TAMPA, Fla. – With a scoreless 1.2 inning outing Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, Craig Breslow '02 helped the Boston Red Sox defeat the Tampa Bay Rays to earn a spot in the American League Championship Series. Breslow was the winning pitcher as the Red Sox rallied to win game four 3-1, winning the best-of-five American League Division Series three games to one.
On Saturday Oct. 5, Breslow became the first Yale alumnus in more than twenty years to compete in the MLB postseason. He pitched in relief for the Red Sox first on Saturday, and again on Monday and Tuesday, totaling 3.2 scoreless innings. The last Bulldog to play in the MLB playoffs was pitcher Ron Darling '82, who made his final postseason appearance for the Oakland Athletics in 1992.
Breslow relieved starter John Lackey on Saturday with a two-run lead in the sixth inning. He made short work of both batters he faced, retiring them in order to end the inning and leave a runner stranded. He continued into the seventh, where he got himself into and out of a jam. After hitting and walking a batter, Breslow induced a double play to end the inning with no runs allowed. The Sox went on to win the game to take a 2-0 series lead.
On Monday, Breslow was first in relief once again, this time to relieve starter Clay Buchholz. Breslow recorded one out and allowed one hit before being removed with no runs earned. Boston lost to put the series score at 2-1.
On Tuesday, Breslow got the final out of the sixth inning in relief of starter Jake Peavy. After Boston rallied to take a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh, Breslow struck out all three batters he faced in the bottom of the inning. That gave him a career-high four straight strikeouts, including a whiff of James Loney to end the sixth. He was relieved by Junichi Tazawa with one out in the eighth.
Yale baseball Head Coach John Stuper has waited for this moment. Said Stuper, "My first wish for Bres was to pitch in the big leagues. After he did that, I wanted him to become an established big leaguer. After that, my wish was for him to be a part of the postseason. He has accomplished so much and Yale Baseball could not be prouder."
Breslow's debut on the playoff roster comes as no surprise. His 2013 campaign cemented him as a key member of the Red Sox' bullpen. According to fangraphs.com, his 1.81 ERA this regular season ranks 11th among 135 qualified relievers, ranking him above elite names such as Aroldis Chapman and Mariano Rivera. Fangraphs' Wins Above Replacement metric values Breslow at .7 wins per year, good enough for third best in the Sox bullpen, behind Koji Uehara and Tazawa.
His 2013 dominance was due in large part to his success in keeping the ball inside the ballpark. According to fangraphs.com, his fly ball rate dropped to 34.3%, his lowest mark since his 2005 rookie debut. More importantly, only 4.8% of those flies left the yard for home runs, a mark good enough to put him at 18th among qualified relievers.
Another former Yale player, Ryan Lavarnway '09, also played for the Red Sox this season. Lavarnway appeared in 25 games in the regular season, hitting .299 with a .329 on-base percentage and a .429 slugging percentage.
Breslow looks to continue his scoreless playoff streak in the American League Championship Series, where Boston will face the winner of the series between the Oakland Athletics and the Detroit Tigers (currently tied 2-2).
report by Skylar Shibayama '16, Yale Sports Publicity