No days off puts stress on pitchers in Division Series, LCS

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New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman reacts after the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians 10-9 in Game 2 of an American League wild-card baseball series, early Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

NEW YORK – Postseason games come at an unprecedented pace starting Monday in this year of the pandemic.

Teams could play the Division Series over five straight days, take a single day off and then contest the League Championship Series on seven consecutive days. That could stress closers such as Aroldis Chapman, Liam Hendriks and Kenley Jansen, and starters like Gerrit Cole and Walker Buehler.

“I’m old school, I guess, but it’s all about winning. And if they needed me, I wanted them to put me in there, ” said Darold Knowles, who helped Oakland win the 1973 title by becoming the first to pitch in all seven World Series games. “I think that’s the way everybody feels now, but they’re so afraid they’re going to hurt somebody. And I understand that. I think it’s a little bit overdone.”

No one has pitched in games for five straight days since Shawn Tolleson for Texas from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3, 2015, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last to pitch for seven straight days was San Francisco’s Steve Kline from July 31 to Aug. 6, 2007.

“The five days in a row would be interesting, right? You would have to be really efficient the first four days for that to happen,” New York Yankees reliever Zack Britton said. “But if it’s a winner-take-all game, you’re going do it because that’s what you need to do to win.”

The Division Series has had a 2-2-1 format since 1998, with a day off scheduled between Games 2 and 3, then another between Games 4 and 5 as the teams shift to each other’s ballpark. The League Championship Series has had a 2-3-2 format since 1985, with days off between Games 2 and 3, then another between Games 5 and 6.

Travel days were eliminated as Major League Baseball switched to a bubble environment in an attempt to avoid October interruptions caused by COVID-19.

AL Division Series start Monday, when the Yankees and Tampa Bay play at San Diego’s Petco Park, and Oakland and Houston meet at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. NL Division Series open the Tuesday, with Miami facing Atlanta at Houston’s Minute Maid Park and San Diego going against the Dodgers at new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.