Sox to start ALCS campaign Saturday night
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 08:10
The Red Sox are in the ALCS. The last time the Sox played a Championship Series game, the night ended in defeat, and the team got to watch the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their first ever World Series berth.
Oh, how the tables have turned. This year, it was the Red Sox wearing army helmets and punting beers after the game (looking at you, Jonny Gomes).
But as awesome as the Sox’ celebration was, it felt a bit superficial. There’s a reason that teams in other sports don’t pop champagne after advancing to the second round of the playoffs — because, really, they haven’t accomplished anything yet. The Sox are still eight wins away from reaching their goal. For now, the Sox are focused on no one but themselves and have confidence in their ability to compete with whomever they face in the remainder of their season.
“I don’t care who we play. I know we’ll be ready,” David Ortiz told reporters after Tuesday’s Division Series-clinching win. “I’ll tell you what, this team isn’t stopping.”
With the chance to play in the 109th World Series just four wins away, the Red Sox don’t appear to have any holes on their roster. After outscoring Tampa Bay 26-12 in the ALDS, both the offense and pitching staff are firing on all cylinders.
The offense, which scored the most runs in the majors this season and is averaging 6.5 runs per game this postseason, has never looked better. With Jacoby Ellsbury setting the table for the middle of the lineup, David Ortiz doing what he’s done his whole career — hitting crucial postseason home runs — and Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks grinding out long at-bats, the run production is likely to continue.
Because the other American League series went to five games, the Sox’ pitching staff will get enough rest to allow manager John Farrell to set up his rotation in whatever way he sees fit. That might explain why teams who win their first-round playoff series in four games, as the Red Sox did, have historically performed better in the second round than teams who win in three or five games. Winning in four gives the team a healthy amount of rest — but not enough to keep the players from staying fresh.
Farrell will give the ball to playoff ace Jon Lester in Game 1, with some combination of Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy starting Games 2 through 4. Should the series go any longer, just rinse and repeat.
On top of their solid rotation, the Red Sox have the best bullpen of any remaining American League team. With Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara shutting the door in the eighth and ninth innings, Craig Breslow coming off a dominant series against the Rays and Brandon Workman and Felix Doubront as good options to pitch multiple innings if needed, opposing offenses will struggle to touch the Sox late in the game.
In addition to that, the Red Sox’ offense matches up remarkably well against the right handed pitching staff of the opponent. The Red Sox led MLB this year with a .818 OPS against righties. Against lefties they had a .751 OPS, still good for fifth in MLB, but not as formidable.
Facing right-handed starting pitchers allows the Sox to start Daniel Nava, who has been one of the team’s best offensive weapons, rather than putting Jonny Gomes in left field.
Considering these advantages both in the field and at the plate, the Red Sox look ready to go. We just might be witnessing another historic chapter in Boston sports history.