On July 27, after five innings, Houston led 8 to 2 and Lance had thrown 80 pitches, when Dusty sent him out in the sixth and insisted that he complete an inning in which he threw another 27 pitches. Lance allowed two of the first three batters to get on base as he threw 9 pitches to push his pitch count to 89 -- that's when any intelligent manager would have pulled Lance. Instead, Baker kept him in and Lance needed 19 more pitches to complete the inning while giving up two runs. I get that the bullpen had been heavily used in the days leading to that start, but middle relievers are replaceable -- Lance is not.
In 16 of 28 starts, Baker forced Lance to thrown more than 100 pitches, half of those between 107 and 111 pitches. Since June 20, Lance threw fewer than 94 pitches only once -- he threw 89.
By comparison, Eovaldi of Boston topped 100 pitches eight times in 32 starts and none since Aug. 1. Alex Cora was smart enough to preserve Eovaldi's talented but fragile arm for the postseason; Baker was not. And that, so far, is the biggest difference in a series in which a healthy Astros squad would have a clear edge over the Red Sox.
Houston may very well win the series, but if they do, it will be despite of Baker rather than because of him.
Here's what I wrote here July 27:
Dusty is as bad a manager as he is as good a guy
We have a pitcher in Lance who is exceptionally vulnerable to injury but pitches great when healthy, so Dusty pushed him to throw more than 90 with a six-run cushion. Not only does that choice cause a chunk of that lead to evaporate, it’s those sort of choices that decrease the odds Lance will last in good health through the post season...