READY OR NOT RED SOX, THE PLAYOFFS ARE HERE

With Saturday’s win, the Boston Red Sox clinched an AL East division title for the second straight year. It is the first time they have done this in franchise history. With a loss Sunday, the Sox finish the season at 93-69, the same record they had last year.

LAST YEARS PLAYOFFS

After a back and forth Game One loss in Cleveland, David Price got shelled in Game Two. Heading back to Boston looking to avoid a sweep, they could not get it done as they were quickly sent home. David Ortiz’s career ended and it was time for the 2017 Red Sox.

2017 RED SOX

There were a lot of skeptics this year with questions about the loss of Big Papi. However, with Rick Porcello (2016 Cy Young), Price, and Chris Sale leading the rotation, a division title seemed inevitable.

However, Porcello had many, many struggles this season as he limped to a 11-17 record. He will probably start Game Three in Boston on Sunday. Price dealt with lingering elbow issues all season, and he is fully healthy and blossoming into his bullpen role. Since his September 17th return, Price has pitched 8.2 innings, striking out 13 and allowing ZERO runs.

Finally, there is Chris Sale, who has already been named the Game One starter. He has been pretty dominant this year going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA. He has easily been the team’s MVP.

SOX OFFENSE

The Red Sox offense is not as good as the 2016 squad’s. They lack a power bat, which they hoped would be Hanley Ramirez. Hanley has had a down year, but has shown flashes. They have lacked the repeat of 2016 from Mookie Betts they were expecting. As Mookie hit .315 last year. (.264 this season) The additions of Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez have provided a big spark and will raise a big question of who starts at third base come Thursday. The offense needs to be there in Houston, getting to the Astros two-headed monster of Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS
  • AVG: Nunez- .321, Pedroia- .293, Vazquez- .290
  • HR: Betts- 24, Ramirez- 23, Moreland- 22
  • RBI: Betts- 102, Benintendi- 90, Moreland-79
  • Hits: Betts – 166, Bogaerts 156, Benintendi 155

The Sox did use their speed more this season, ranking 5th in the MLB in steals. Acquiring Rajai Davis will put a speedy guy on who can run late in games. They certainly used their strengths, more towards the end of the year, to their advantage.

Season Series

Houston (101-61) finished eight games ahead of the Red Sox for second place in the American League and home-field advantage. The teams just completed a four-game series at Fenway, with Houston taking three games. The game on Sunday (10/1) featured multiple bench players with everything decided. Either way, Houston still won 4-3.

The Astros also won the season series 4-3. In the only other series in mid-June, the Sox took two out of three games in Houston.

KEYS FOR THE SOX

Right now, the bullpen is the strongest part of the Boston Red Sox. If a starter gets taken out early, (cough, Porcello, cough) this bullpen can go five-six innings scoreless. Especially with the three headed monster of Reed, Price, and Kimbrel. The bullpen can win this team games.

As I mentioned before, David Price has helped stabilize this bullpen while accepting the role. He can go three innings if needed and the way he is going, he will be effective. He has drawn comparisons out of the bullpen to Andrew Miller and the work he did for Cleveland last postseason. If the work Price has done replicates in the playoffs, John Farrell can rest a tad bit easier.

ALDS PREVIEW

The Red Sox are the underdogs and will have a tough hill to climb in Games One and Two. The addition of Justin Verlander for Houston really improves their AL Pennant chances.

GAME ONE IS A MUST WIN!!!

Anytime Chris Sale steps on the mound, the Red Sox have a pretty good chance of winning. Sale vs. Keuchel could easily make this a 2.5 hour, 1-0 ball game. Well, Boston, you need this one. Winning Game One not only guarantees two games at Fenway, it takes a lot of pressure of Drew Pomeranz, the Game Two starter. Coming back to Fenway with at least a 1-1 series and away from Verlander and Keuchel will make Boston fans pretty happy.

Houston’s Offense

The Astros have one of the best offenses in the American League. Led by batting champion Jose Altuve, this team can put up runs. It is up to the Red Sox starters to minimize them.

MLB Offensive Ranks:

  • AVG: .282 – 1st
  • HR: 238 – 2nd
  • OBP: .346 – 1st
  • SLG: .478 – 1st

This offense is a freaking juggernaut. There is a slight chance that the Boston bats can keep up with this team. Especially with who there first two starters are. Sale and Pomeranz have to keep runners off the bases and keep the ball in the park.

Boston’s Needs

Boston is known as the comeback city. When they went down 0-2 to Cleveland last year, everybody was like: it’s fine we are gonna comeback. In games, when it is 3-0 in the 7th: “We’re Fine” LOL. Sometimes it is over the top, but I love the positivity.

Well, to avoid the “we’re fine” comments, Boston MUST grab early leads. They also need to do that using their strengths. Almost like the Moneyball A’s. Walks, steals, moving guys over. Small ball can win this team an AL Pennant. Playing from behind against Houston’s offense is a recipe for disaster. Especially on the road, grabbing a run or two in the top of the first would be huge.

Mookie Betts

Betts had a MVP type season in 2016, and with a .264 average this year, he cooled off. Nevertheless, Betts is an MVP-caliber player. He needs to do damage in the cleanup spot. Especially with a hot Xander Bogaerts, he should have runners on base to drive in. Betts can change a game with his bat and his base running ability.

Who starts at third base?

Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez were both on fire when they joined the Red Sox. As expected, they each cooled off. Devers is a spitting image of 2013 Xander Bogaerts. 20 years old, playing third, playing playoff baseball. I will not compare Nunez of 2013 Will Middlebrooks, cause that would just be mean. Nunez has been out with an injury, but said Sunday he will be ready for Game One.

Stats:

Devers: 58 GP, 63 H, 14 2B, 10 HR, 30 RBI, .284 BA

Nunez (w/ Red Sox): 38 GP, 53 H, 12 2B, 8 HR, 27 RBI, .321 BA

Eduardo has done more damage in twenty less games than Devers. I think it would be smart to take the veteran. However, I do not think it would be wrong to rule out starting both, with Devers at third and Nunez at DH. How much confidence does Farrell have in Hanley Ramirez? We will see when the lineup comes out Thursday afternoon.

PROBABLE STARTERS:

-Note: only official announcement has been Chris Sale

Game 1: Chris Sale (17-8) vs. Dallas Keuchel (14-5)

Game 2: Drew Pomeranz (17-6) vs. Justin Verlander (15-8)

Game 3: Rick Porcello (11-17) vs. Charlie Morton (14-7)

Game 4: Eduardo Rodriguez (6-7) vs. Brad Peacock (13-2)

Game 5: Sale vs. Keuchel

PREDICTION

I love the Red Sox, and you know what I am also a believer. Red Sox will win the series in five games. Why, because Chris Sale will win two, IN HOUSTON, single-handedly. I do not care if he has never been to the postseason, this guy can pitch. I feel that Rick Porcello will do just enough to allow the Sox offense to squeeze by Houston in Game 3. However, like I mentioned before, this only will happen if the Red Sox WIN GAME ONE. Thursday can’t come any sooner. I love October baseball. This will be a lot of fun. GO SOX!!

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