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Story of the 2016 postseason: Reliever believers

Cody Allen and many other relievers have been hug-worthy this postseason. Jason Miller/Getty Images

The role of the reliever is such that there is often greater notice paid to the failures than the successes.

Though failure (and failure of usage) has made headlines at times in the 2016 postseason, there has been more success than is the norm.

Relievers this postseason have combined for a 2.37 ERA and 0.98 WHIP (compared with 4.91 and 1.24 for starters). Barring awful work by the Los Angeles Dodgers' and Washington Nationals' pens on Thursday, it will easily be the best ERA and WHIP for relief pitchers through the end of the division series round since the playoff format expanded to 10 teams in 2012.

One difference is in home runs allowed. Though Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeurys Familia allowed high-profile game-losing home runs in the wild-card round, they were the exception and not the norm.

Relievers have allowed eight home runs in 129 innings pitched, a rate of 0.56 home runs per nine innings, which is a near-match for major league leader Noah Syndergaard in that stat (0.54).

One trend that has emerged is that teams that were in “go-for-it” mode in terms of getting a reliever at the trade deadline -- the Cleveland Indians (Andrew Miller), Nationals (Mark Melancon) and Chicago Cubs (Aroldis Chapman) -- have prospered.

Those who have been high-impact performers include:

The Indians

The Indians had the luxury of having two great relievers, and that allowed them to use one in creative ways to defuse high-leverage situations earlier than the ninth inning. Miller and Cody Allen struck out 12 in seven scoreless innings in dispatching the Boston Red Sox, picking up where they left off at the end of the regular season.

They excelled equally at missing bats. Miller got misses on 43 percent of swings against him; Allen got misses on 45 percent. Miller got his outs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Allen got a five-out save and a four-out save. He had only two saves of four outs or more in the regular season.

The Toronto Blue Jays will pose a couple of tests for the Indians. Melvin Upton is 5-for-12 with three home runs in his career against Miller. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista have a combined 10 plate appearances against Allen with two hits and five walks.

The Nationals

Yes, Blake Treinen gave up the game-winning hit to Chase Utley in Game 4, but before that, just about everything Dusty Baker had done with his bullpen had worked.

Nationals relievers enter Game 5 with a 1.02 ERA, with 22 strikeouts and 10 hits allowed in 17 2/3 innings. They’ve gotten the highest percentage of missed swings (36 percent) of any team this postseason.

Perhaps the most important work that the bullpen has done has been when left-handers Sammy Solis, Marc Rzepczynski and Oliver Perez faced left-handed hitters. Dodgers left-handed hitters are 2-for-16 against the Nationals' southpaws.

They’ve also been secure at game’s end, with Melancon pitching scoreless relief in each of the first three games of the series.

The Blue Jays

What gets lost in the story of Zach Britton’s nonusage, Bautista’s RBIs and the Rangers getting swept out of the postseason is that the Blue Jays’ bullpen has been lights out.

Orioles and Rangers hitters hit a combined 5-for-47 (.106) with three walks against Blue Jays relievers. The one blemish is that four of the five hits have been for extra bases. But that hasn’t stopped them from posting a 1.29 ERA.

Roberto Osuna and Joe Biagini have combined for 8 2/3 innings of scoreless, three-hit relief with nine strikeouts. Osuna entered the postseason with three blown saves in his last four chances. Biagini had a 6.94 ERA in 11 2/3 innings in September/October.

Aroldis Chapman

Chapman is the first Cubs reliever to record more than two saves in any postseason. Yes, he blew the save opportunity in Game 3, but if there was any question about a bounce back, he answered that with 100, 99, 100, 101, 100, 102, 101, 102, 101, 100, 100, 102, 101. Those were the velocities of the 13 pitches he threw in striking out the side in the ninth inning to close out Game 4.

Sarah Langs also contributed to this article.