The Red Sox playoff run kicks off today. It remains to be seen whether this will be a quick exit again.
There’s reason to be excited for the series against Houston. The Astros got off to a phenomenal start in the first half of the year, then sort of coasted to the postseason (losing the top spot to Cleveland after their record streak). They have a way more consistent offense, scoring 111 more runs than the Red Sox. Their starting pitching is also more consistent. Verlander vs Sale will be a great matchup, and hopefully Sale can keep the Sox in the game for at least 6 innings. Keuchel is inconsistent, but has the ability to be a dominant pitcher, while Pomeranz has had an excellent season and should continue to do well in game 2. Beyond that, the Red Sox starters have been downright unpredictable, between Porcello and Rodrigez struggling and Fister’s bipolar swings. As far as a third starter goes, Fister has the best postseason track record. The Red Sox have a better bullpen, especially if David Price can keep it together the way he has in the last few weeks.
To win, the Red Sox will need their two best starters to step up and pitch as well as they have all season. The offense will need to hit much more consistently than their regular season effort, and they will have to manage not to get thrown out on the bases as they have all season. Defense is fortunately something that the Red Sox do very well, and I am very confident that they’re going to continue that.
If the Astros win this series, it will be because the Red Sox can’t hit consistently, and their aggression on the basepaths gets them thrown out (Benintendi). Leaving runners on base has been a struggling point all year, given the style of offense the Sox use (somewhat of a small-ball approach, few consistent power hitters), so that may rear its ugly head if they can’t build offensive momentum. Either way, I look forward to an exciting series against a solid all-around team.
The Sox clinched a spot in the postseason last night with a win and an Angels loss. At the very least, they’ll be a wild card team. They’re in the driver’s seat for the division though, so barring a pretty big collapse they’ll have (likely) Houston, or more likely they’ll be heading to Houston.
I’m not as confident as I’d like to be in the Sox. Their offense is inconsistent. Just look at their last 3 games: two overtime Wins, one going 15 innings, and one blowout win on the back of Chris Sale’s absolutely dominating performance. If they had a consistent showing on offense even for the past month or so they could be contending for home field advantage. I’m still no 100% sold that they’ll be ready to compete in the playoffs with playoff pitching, whether it be Verlander, Keuchel, or even Kluber if things go south for Cleveland.
Pitching is another concern. Sale is Sale, but other than yesterday he kind of struggled (relatively, of course, for the Cu Young award hopeful). Big congratulations are in order on his 300 strikeouts this year, the first time since 1999 that it’s happened in the AL. Drew Pomeranz has actually been consistently very good this year, which is something I wouldn’t have expected to say last year. He has done a tremendous job and has been one of the few cconsistent pieces on this team. Beyond that, what do we have? Rick Porcello, who isn’t even close to what h was last year; Eduardo Rodriguez, who is what you’d expect him to be; Doug Fister, a solid fifth starter with an unfortunate last name who would be exposed as a third starter; and the billion-dollar man David Price, who will probably be a bullpen pitcher (which is good considering that’s the only way he’s ever won a playoff game).
The Sox will most likely play the Astros in the ALDS. I think they can win, but it’ll probably go to at least 4 games if not 5. Houston has been coasting a bit since starting the season like a rocket and burning out after the all star break. After Houston would be Cleveland, a juggernaut who won 22 games in a row and is poised to have home field to defend their pennant from last year. Cleveland looks to have Boston’s number this year, whatever the reason. If I were a gambler, I wouldn’t bet on the Sox in Cleveland. But stranger things have happened, so the Sox shouldn’t be counted out yet.