Red Sox vs Indians ALDS Preview
By Peter Santo
I was one of the few people who picked the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East this season. The Red Sox pulled away from the pack with a stellar stretch of September baseball that included an 11 game win streak to take the AL East crown.
The Sox played steadily all season long, riding their superb offense on their way to winning the toughest division in baseball. There’s no question this team can hit with the best of em, they sport the best offense we’ve seen in the league since the 2013 Red Sox slugged their way to a world championship.
Their lineup consists of two MVP candidates in Mookie Betts and David Ortiz and numerous other supporting players who are very solid in their own right. There is simply no weakness, everyone in this lineup 1-9 is a force to be reckoned with at the plate.
We knew coming into this season that the Sox’ lineup was going to be solid, the question was could the pitching hold up enough to allow them to contend into October. Dave Dombrowski and company added the ace they needed in David Price, and while Price hasn’t had his best stuff this year, he hasn’t been nearly as bad as some suggest.
The surprise of the season in Boston has been Rick Porcello, who has rebounded from a downright awful 2015 campaign into a Cy Young candidate in 2016. His 22 wins are the most in the majors while ranking fifth in the AL with a 3.15 ERA.He undoubtedly deserves to start game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday.
For winning the AL East in 2016 the Red Sox have earned themselves a date with the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS.
The Indians are looking to end a 68 year championship drought dating back to their last championship in 1948. That championship win also came against a Boston team, but it was so long ago that the Red Sox were then called the Braves. The Indians are no stranger to playoff heartbreak, especially against the Red Sox.
Cleveland jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 1999 ALDS before being outscored 32-10 in the next two games as the Red Sox forced a deciding game 5. The Indians thought they would avoid facing Pedro Martinez, who was coming off one of the best regular seasons by any pitcher in league history, as Pedro had hurt his shoulder in game 1.
Things were looking good for the Indians as they jumped on Derek Lowe early, but Martinez was summoned from the bullpen in the fourth inning and pitched six no hit innings as the Sox came back to win 12-8.
These teams would meet again eight years later in the 2007 ALDS. In that series the Indians jumped out to a 3-1 series lead behind co-aces CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona (who we later found out is really named Roberto Hernandez) and looked to be in control with Sabathia on the mound at home in game 5.
However the Sox had other plans. Josh Beckett, who was possibly given extra motivation when the Indians called his country singer ex-girlfriend to sing the national anthem after Taylor Swift cancelled last minute, pitched one of the best games of his career in game 5 to send the series back to Boston. JD Drew hit the 70 million dollar grand slam in game 6 (I vividly 9 year old me being very sad when my dad went to this game without me), and the Red Sox got the bats going to win game 7 and advance to their second world series in four years.
A lot has changed since that series nine years ago. The Red Sox manager in 2007 was Terry Francona, he now manages the Cleveland Indians. Not a single player remains from that Indians team that came from one game of reaching the World Series in 2007, and only Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz remain from that Red Sox team.
This year’s Indians rode a rotation that finally lived up to the billing of being one of the best in the league. Corey Kluber is in the conversation for another Cy Young award, while Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar had career years behind him. In addition to the stellar pitching, Tyler Naquin, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor all turned in superb seasons and all are 25 or younger, while Mike Napoli underwent a resurgence slugging 34 home runs and driving in 101 runs.
Throw in deadline acquisition Andrew Miller spearheading the back end of the bullpen and you’ve got a team that stacks up very nicely with Boston at least on paper. The main worry for the Indians is their health.
If the Indians were fully healthy you would certainly give Cleveland’s rotation the edge over Boston’s quintet, however health is a major question mark. Just one of the Cleveland’s top three starters will pitch in the rotation in this ALDS, raising the question of do the Red Sox have the edge on the mound.
The Indians will lead with Trevor Bauer in game one, Bauer has been decidedly average his entire career, and 2016 was no different. Definitely give the edge to Rick Porcello in that one. Cleveland will follow with Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber against 200 million dollar man David Price in game two. I’ll give the slight edge to Kluber in that one. Game three features Clay Buchholz vs Josh Tomlin, given Buchholz’s resurgence in the second half of 2016 and Tomlin’s history of being mediocre on the mound, I’ll go with Clay in that one.
An Indians rotation of Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar would have been very scary in a best of five series. Salazar will pitch out of the bullpen, if he even pitches at all, while Carrasco’s season ended in September when he took a line drive off his hand.
While the Red Sox have the edge in the rotation, the bullpen is where things get interesting. Cleveland’s bullpen is anchored by former Red Sox flamethrower Andrew Miller, who has been nothing short of dominant since being traded by Boston in 2014. Craig Kimbrel, Junichi Tazawa, and Brad Ziegler are very hit or miss. All three can be excellent when on, but all three have the ability to cost the Red Sox some games this postseason.
While these teams appear to be relatively even on paper, there is no question that Boston has much more experience in October. I expect the Red Sox to ride that experience to the ALCS.
Prediction: Red Sox in 4.