Now that the Boston Red Sox have taken care of business, it’s time to look elsewhere. Over the next week or so, I will give Sox fans a preview of each potential opponent they may face when the ALDS begins on October 4th.
Perhaps, the most decorated manager in Red Sox history could make his way back to town if the Indians can preserve their spot in the Wild Card race and win the one-game play-in. Of course, that man is Terry Francona, and for the first time ever, Sox fans could find themselves rooting against him.
Under Francona’s management, the Indians resemble much of what the Red Sox used to when he first took over: a team that has come together, battled adversity, surpassed expectations, and most importantly, won ball games. Not many folks had Cleveland on their radar as a playoff team before the season kicked off, but you could say the same about Boston, a team who is now one win away from clinching the best record in the American League.
At 90-71, Cleveland holds the top spot in a Wild Card race that will surely come down to game 162. If they manage to hold and make it to the ALDS, let’s take a look at what the Red Sox can expect to see.
With the injuries to Zach McAllister and Justin Masterson, the Tribes rotation seems a bit weak to compete with Boston in a best-of-five series. Both could be back by the time the ALDS starts, but having two of your starters down this time of year is not a positive sign. They will need Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and Corey Kluber to really step up if they want to keep themselves from getting blown out in the series.
Now, Masterson might still be moved back to the rotation if the Tribe make it to the postseason, but that isn’t a definite, and for the time being, he will be a weapon out of the bullpen for Francona. With Chris Perez getting booted from the closers role, it’s still a possibility to see the sinker-balling Masterson take over that spot. But no doubt about it, there is some uncertainty going on in that Cleveland bullpen if closer-by-committee is the plan moving forward.
It’s also worth noting that Jimenez is not the same pitcher the Sox faced all the way back in April when he gave up seven earned runs in just 1.2 innings pitched. Check out these stats compiled by Stephanie Liscio of ESPN.com.
“Since the All-Star break, he’s sporting a 1.83 ERA and batters are hitting just .224/.294/.338 against him (down from a 4.56 ERA in the first half, when batters hit .252/.342/.405 against him).”
Quite a dramatic difference in effectiveness for Jimenez, but one pitcher can’t do it all. You could go as far to say that no starter for Cleveland is as good as any of the four (Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, Peavy) that Boston will feature.
Offensively, the Indians don’t have a single member of their team batting over .300. It’s been a complete team effort, with contributions from a wide variety of characters. There’s a different name at the top of nearly every offensive category for the Tribe, and while the line up may not seem like a powerhouse, they are 6th in the Majors with 481 XBH.
This team simply takes advantage of opportunities when they get them. They’ve collected 43 home runs with runners in scoring position this year, and 20 of the 43, have been with two outs in the inning. They are truly never out of any ball game because they know that one timely swing can get them right back in it.
This match up is intriguing for obvious reasons when it comes to who is managing both sides. But when it comes to who is on the field, I don’t think the Indians have enough starting arms, or bullpen guys, they can rely on in pressure situations to overpower the Red Sox.
Series Prediction: 3-0 Red Sox