Can the Sox Overcome Cleveland?

Joe Clark

On Thursday night in Cleveland, the Boston Red Sox will play in their first playoff series since 2013 against the Cleveland Indians. The Indians, winners of the AL Central, are playing in the postseason for the first time since a loss in the AL Wild Card game in 2013. Their last time making it this far in the playoffs was 2007, which was also the last time they won the Central. There, they made it all the way to the ALCS, before losing to a Terry Francona-led Red Sox team that won the World Series that year. Now, Francona is in the other dugout after being made the scapegoat and “parting ways” (yeah, right) with the Red Sox after their late season collapse in 2011. Now, Francona gets a chance to beat his former team, while the Red Sox look to advance to the ALCS in the hopes of winning one last World Series for David Ortiz, whose storied career will end after this season. No matter what happens, it will be a fun series to watch.



If you asked me who had the better rotation a month ago, I would’ve said the Indians in a landslide. Now, with recent injuries to Carlos Carrasco (out for season), Danny Salazar (out for ALDS), and Corey Kluber (should be good to go for ALDS), the Indians are starting Trevor Bauer in game 1, Kluber, the HR-prone Josh Tomlin (36 allowed in 174 innings) and rookie Mike Clevinger, who throws hard but faces control problems. The Red Sox lineup has Bauer figured out, as against him the team has an absurd .386/.460/.659 slash. Tomlin’s penchant for giving up HRs doesn’t bode well against the powerful Red Sox lineup (3 guys with over 30 HR), and Kluber, while talented, may still be reeling from his recent quad injury. The Red Sox rotation isn’t anything special, but outside of Steven Wright, they’re healthy and at this point of the season that’s important. The Red Sox dished out seven years and $237 million for David Price this offseason, and while he struggled the first month and a half of the season, down the stretch he pitched well and showed flashes of why the Red Sox paid so much for him. Rick Porcello burst onto the scene in his 2nd season with the Red Sox, and the fact that he’s turned into legitimate AL Cy Young candidate (22-4, 3.15 ERA) is a big reason why the Red Sox went from worst to first. Clay Buchholz, who struggled mightily early in the season and was demoted to the bullpen, had a few nice starts down the stretch and will start Game 3 for the Red Sox. Unlike the NL series’, you’ll see a lot more scores like 6-4 than 2-1 in the AL, and I don’t expect this series to be any different. I think the Red Sox have the advantage here, but only because of the injuries to what would be the normal Indians rotation. Advantage: Boston



During the last month of the season, the Red Sox bullpen went from a big weakness to a big strength, with Koji Uehara, Robbie “The Lawnmower” Ross, Joe Kelly, and Brad Ziegler all pitching well. Craig Kimbrel, who at one time was the best closer in baseball by a wide margin (and is still very good) struggled a little bit though, and he will need to right the ship for the postseason. He did still have 31 SV while missing time because of injuries, but one thing to look out for his his tendency to walk guys (5.1 BB/9). The Indians bullpen is exactly one you’d expect from a small market team-cheap veterans or talented homegrown guys who have gone through the system. Everyone in the Indians ‘pen has pitched well, with closer Cody Allen (2.51 ERA, 32 SV) leading the charge. Dan Otero (1.53 ERA) has been lights out as the Indians set up man. Bryan Shaw was used by Terry Francona 75 times this season, and he’s delivered in the form of a 3.24 ERA and 9.3 K/9. The Indians also traded for Andrew Miller, arguably the best reliever in baseball, at the deadline, and in 26 G with the Indians had a 1.55 ERA. The Red Sox bullpen struggled the majority of the season, while the Indians’ has stayed relatively solid and features Miller, who’s a stud, so for those reasons they’ll get the edge here. Advantage: Cleveland



This is where the Red Sox really shine. They’re lineup is one of the best in baseball, anchored by 2 MVP candidates in Mookie Betts (31 HR, 113 RBI, .318/.363/.534) and David Ortiz, playing in his last year before retirement. Ortiz has had the best season by a 40 year old in MLB history, batting .315/.401/.620 with 38 HR and 127 RBI.  They also have Hanley Ramirez, who hit .286/.381/.505 with 31 HR and 110 RBI in what was a massive comeback season, especially considering many fans would’ve traded him for a bag of balls if they could’ve. The Sox have also seen Dustin Pedroia (15 HR, 74 RBI, .318/.376/.449) have a great season. Jackie Bradley Jr, who the Red Sox almost traded for Charlie Furbush a few seasons back, has also had a remarkable season, playing phenomenal defense in CF, while hitting .267/.349/.486 with 26 HR and 87 RBI. That’s even without mentioning Xander Bogaerts (109 OPS+), Sandy Leon (120 OPS+), who came back down to earth late in the season after a start that blew everyone’s mind. For Cleveland, they’re led by young stud Francisco Lindor (.301/.358/.435) with 15 HR and 78 RBI. They also have former Red Sox World Champion Mike Napoli, who has had a great year for Cleveland, with 34 HR and 101 RBI. The presence CF Tyler Naquin (126 OPS+), Carlos Santana (34 HR, 87 RBI), Jason Kipnis (107 OPS+ with 23 HR and 82 RBI), and Jose Ramirez (11 HR, 76 RBI, .312/.363/.462) makes the winner of this much closer than people may think. The Red Sox have a deeper lineup though, and that will give them the edge. Advantage: Boston



These are two really, really good teams, and despite the Rangers having the best record in the AL, the AL West was weak this year, and I truly think these are the two best teams in the AL. The Indians’ rotation for this series (Bauer-Kluber-Tomlin-Clevinger) just isn’t a great rotation. If it was Carrasco-Kluber-Salazar-Bauer, I would give the Indians the win. I just can’t get past that rotation though, so for that reason i’m going to say Red Sox in 4.