ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- John Farrell had every right to miss out on some shut-eye Monday night leading into Tuesday morning.
The Red Sox manager had watched his team lose a chunk of the momentum gained in its first two wins in the American League Division Series with the Rays. And not only was Farrell's club saddled with a walk-off loss, but within that defeat resided a litany of debatable decisions that would dominate the airwaves leading into Game 4.
"Actually, last night, as I typically do, I just reviewed some of the high points in the game. But I slept well last night," Farrell said. "I felt convicted to the decisions that were made."
Upon arriving at Tropicana Field, Farrell met up with bench coach Torey Lovullo. It was a conversation no different than most of the previous 165 games, except the preparation leading into the moment, and the ramifications that potentially followed, were undeniably different.
Prior to the games at The Trop, there had been two different meetings heading into the best-of-five series against the Rays, the kind of which were relegated to postseason runs. The manager had been prepared. The coaches had been prepared. And the players were following suit.
"The one thing we noticed in the advance meetings were they were locked," said Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield of the Sox players. "They were locked. Oh my goodness. You could have heard a pin drop. The guys are a special group."
The preparation and commitment were a few of the reasons Farrell described the feeling heading into Game 4 as "a sense of calm." Monday night had been fraught with second-guessing. Should Farrell have walked Evan Longoria, who went on to launch a game-tying three-run homer? Why didn't the manager pinch-hit Xander Bogaerts for Stephen Drew when lefty Jake McGee took the mound? There were a bunch of them.
But upon meeting with Lovullo to go through Tuesday night's game plan, there was no hint of uncertainty. The only second-guessing Farrell possessed was whether or not he should have brought in reliever Franklin Morales prior to Craig Breslow rather than the other way around. That was it.
"He was fine. He's unchanged," the bench coach said. "Everything he does is the same every single day. He was consistent from Day 1 until what I saw today in the dugout."
What resulted was the successful completion of Farrell's first postseason series as a manager, and an invitation to the American League Championship Series.
Even with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon weaving in and out of the Red Sox' 3-1 win while using nine pitchers, Farrell remained true to the process that had led his team to its 99 previous wins. The questions this time would be reserved for the Rays skipper, with the Sox manager seemingly pushing all the right buttons.
Throughout the series Farrell and his staff had seen their preparation pay off. In Game 1, the Sox saw opportunities to run on Rays starter Matt Moore, his batterymate Jose Lobaton and the Tampa Bay outfielders. Done. No team had more steals against starter John Lackey, so a priority to help the starter control the running game in Game 2 was put in place.
And when it came to individual matchups, an example of the Red Sox' preparedness came in the form of their approach against Delmon Young. The Rays outfielder had started to earn more playing time heading into the postseason, so getting him out had become of importance. After watching Young turn on a 98 mph, first-pitch fastball from Cleveland starter Danny Salazar in the one-game wild card playoff, Red Sox pitchers were instructed to not give the right-handed hitter anything good to hit on the first pitch, especially no heaters.
As with many of the intricacies that came with the ALDS game plan, the strategy against Young paid off for the Red Sox. The outfielder went 2-for-8 while doing little damage.
"It was interesting," Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen said of the preparation process heading into the postseason. "It goes without saying, it's completely unlike anything in the regular season. They're all do or die. Every game was high intensity from the first pitch. You just try and keep your emotions in check. You become more of a fan. There's not much to do. There's not much to talk about. The manager knows how to manage. The coaching staff knows how to coach. The players know how to play. Once the advance work is done at the beginning of the series, it's just sitting back and watching.
"You watch it get executed. You listen to the scouts say, 'Hey, we can work this guy in this area. This guy is aggressive.' Stuff like that. It's impressive. And the coaches do so much work. And the players are so invested in the stuff the coaches give them."
The plan was the team's, and Farrell's, security blanket.
"I think things, so far, played out as we envisioned," Farrell said. "This series, we've had multiple relievers up at the same time probably more than we have all year. You have to stay prepared and think ahead for the potential matchup, pinch-hit or whatever it might be and not get short-handed."
But the final grade for Farrell in judging how the manager handled this initial playoff run wouldn't come until Tuesday night. That's when the final test for the series came his way.
With the Red Sox trailing by a run in the seventh inning, and Drew slated to once again face off with McGee, Farrell did what successful postseason managers do -- he adjusted.
Bogaerts pinch-hit for the veteran shortstop this time, drawing a walk and eventually scoring the game-tying run. It was the kind of payoff Farrell and Co. had hoped for, with Drew not having siphoned a walk from a lefty since Aug. 27.
"I would be lying if I didn't say that last night had an effect on the decision today," Farrell said. "As we talked about before the game, Stephen has had his issues with left-handers, particularly left-handed relievers. We felt we gave that opportunity a look last night. We didn't have anything going and needed to try something different, and, you know what, Bogey did a hell of a job.
"That's not to say I was close-minded coming into today, but we just had to look in some cases and we did just that. Particularly with Bogaerts and pinch-hitting for [Jarrod Saltalamacchia with David Ross] when McGee came in the game, there was a sense of calm because once we saw McGee warming up down there, it was like, you know what, we went a certain way last night, we felt like it was time to make a shift, we did it and it paid off."
The players' approach obviously went a long way. (Note: Much of the pregame talk prior to Tuesday night's game centered around sticking up for teammate Quintin Berry, whose left hand had been jammed after Tampa Bay second baseman Ben Zobrist dropped his knee in front of the basetealer Monday night -- a move considered taboo by some in baseball.)
"You walk in the clubhouse today, and when guys started coming in, I don't want to say just conversation, but the amount of trash-talking that was going on … the ability to put yesterday behind us and leave us there," Farrell observed. "There was still a relaxed group. Were we on edge? Sure, we're supposed to be this time of year. But guys were eager to get things started."
Farrell being one of them.
Twenty-four hours after being in the middle of the storm when it came to identifying what might be pushing the Red Sox down an uncomfortable road -- ending in a Game 5 at Fenway -- the manager was, and is, firmly in control. One series down, two to go.
"WIthout John, I don't think we would have been here," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "He's the head of the body right here. He's been getting it done since Day 1. I really appreciate everything he got done for us."