It’s the best time of the year.
Tomorrow night, we have the Red Sox at 4, Bruins at 7, and Patriots at 8:30. Beautiful.
But let’s dive into the first, and most important game: Game 1 of the ALDS.
The Astros are favorites, as they should be. Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve, the list goes on and on, they’re stacked. That said, the Red Sox are no slouch. The 93 win division champs have 2 of the AL’s best pitchers going in games 1 and 2, while having possibly the deepest team in the AL playoffs.
The ‘Stros are favorites, but it’s a winnable series for the Sox, but they’re going to need to do a few things right to get to the ALCS:
Make it a Bullpen Series
Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz have been awesome, but the Red Sox bullpen is their biggest strength, and the Astros pen is their biggest weakness. Houston’s pen is very average, coming 10th in the AL in bullpen ERA. Ken Giles is a decent closer, and Chris Devenski has been a nice surprise, but beyond that, their weak. Keeping games close, even if they’re losing is critical for the Sox, as a late inning rally against a bang average bullpen is very do-able.
Meanwhile, the Sox bullpen has been awesome. The pen will likely consist of Craig Kimbrel, Addison Reed, Carson Smith, David Price, Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez, and one of Matt Barnes or Brandon Workman, and there is not a weak link among them. Price has been a shut down monster since coming back from injury out of the pen with a revengeful attitude that’s hard not to love, and he will be relied on heavily. He could go 4 innings if a starter struggles, or come in to get one big out. He’s been compared to Andrew Miller, and he could be even more valuable out of the bullpen than as a starter. John Farrell won’t hesitate to pull a starter if he gets in a jam with this group of pitchers behind them, and it’s the biggest advantage the Sox have over the ‘Stros.
Keep that “Thing” Alive
You can’t describe what it is, but it’s there. The Red Sox have that intangible that they can come back and win any game. 15 extra inning wins (10 on the road), 10 walk offs, and 17 game won when trailing in after the 6th, no game is ever over. The Sox depth from the bench will keep this possible too; Eduardo Nuñez, Brock Holt, Rajai Davis, and one of Deven Marrero or Chris Young will all be options to come off the bench if not starting, and their one at bat could make a difference (Just ask Rajai).
It’s an intangible “thing”, but it’s 100% there, and there’s always that feeling with this team. It’s playoff baseball, 19 games max. You don’t need to get a ton of hits, you just need to get the hits when you need them most, just ask the 2013 Red Sox, but this year’s Red Sox have that same feeling and same attitude to get that big hit at the right time.
Stay Aggressive on the Base Paths.
It’s frustrating at times, but the Red Sox aggressiveness on the base paths was a big reason they won the division. Sure, they made the most outs on the basepaths with 11 more than any other team in the league, but they also took the most extra bases in the league. They were 6th in the ML in stolen bases with 106, 4th in bases taken (sac flies, pass balls, wild pitches, balks, defensive indifference) with 175, lead the league in going 1st to 3rd on a single with 98, and 4th in the majors in scoring from 2nd on a single with 115. That amounts to a lot of extra runs. Rajai Davis is really the Red Sox only super speedy guy, but overall, they don’t have many base path liabilities and are overall a pretty fast team. Those extra bases are huge in a 5 game series and can single handedly win a series.
It’s going to be a fantastic series, and not one the Red Sox can’t win. They’ve done these things all year, and if they continue to against a high powered Astros team, they can come out on top. Sure, we can look at individual players who need to step up like Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into strengths the Red Sox have, and if they play to them, can win the series.
Also, the ALDS being 5 games after a 162 game regular season in extremely dumb and the worst thing about the MLB.
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