Time Out for Sports Talk: The Road Through Sox-tober, Version 4.0 (Magic Number = 11)
Todd: Gotten some extra sleep this week? Kitchen stocked with your favorite caffeinated beverages?
Not only is it time once again for Red Sox postseason baseball, but returning after a 14-year hiatus, it’s Sox-vs-Yanks postseason baseball.
Nineteen games were not enough this year to determine which of the two baseball rivals is better (although Boston did win the regular season series 10-9). It will take at least 3 more games (more likely 5 games IMHO).
It’s certainly been a special year for the Red Sox, posting only the fourth 100-win season in their 118-year franchise history with a franchise record 108 victories. They did it with a rookie manager in Alex Cora and an offense that led the majors in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles and runs scored.
They did it with a pair of MVP caliber stars in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, who combined for 75 home runs and 210 RBI and a shortstop in Xander Bogaerts whose career high 103 RBI were second on the team.
BTW both Betts and Bogaerts turn 26 years old this week, so a happy birthday to both.
What would make their birthdays and all us Red Sox fans very happy is another playoff series win over the Bronx Bombers, who lived up to that name by hitting an MLB-record 267 home runs during the regular season, then added two more for good measure in their dominant Wild Card win over Oakland.
Hard to imagine the Sox and Yankees could top the drama that played out over 14 games across two Octobers in 2003 and 2004. But this year does mark the first time both clubs won 100 or more games in the same season, the first time they’ve squared off in the ALDS, and also the first time a pair of 100-win teams are playing each other in any Division Series since the format was introduced in 1995.
That means there is another difference this time around—instead of potentially seven sleepless nights for all us Sox fans, there will only be a maximum of five. That should hopefully make you feel a little less tired.
There are several keys to this series, although perhaps the most important will be toeing the rubber to throw the very first pitch of this series.
Chris Sale has thrown only 17 innings of meaningful pitches in the last two months. His last time out over a week ago, his fastball was barely getting out of the low nineties. None of us know what to expect from Boston’s ace tonight in terms of velocity, pitch count or endurance. If Sale can flip the switch and pitch at a top level, having him for potentially two starts in this series gives the Sox a big advantage. Otherwise, more dependence falls on the rest of the pitching staff.
And yes, there is legitimate reason for concern when considering the season-long rollercoaster ride of the Sox bullpen and who—if anyone—will step up to reliably bridge the innings gap from the starters to closer Craig Kimbrel. But in fourteen career postseason starts, Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello are a combined 0-11 with a 6.18 ERA. History will need to change with Sox’ top three starters if they’re going to advance. Ultimately, I think they’ll find a way: Red Sox in five seat-squirming games.
Some quick thoughts on some of the other teams in town:
Four words best sum up last night’s Patriots win over the Colts: Welcome back Julian Edelman! His first real game back since that incredible SB win over the Falcons sure seemed to open up the passing attack for TB12. Let’s hope Bill Belichick and the defensive coaches can come up with one of their patented game plans for QB Patrick Mahomes when the Chiefs arrive in Foxboro next weekend.
Speaking of guys who wear #11, what to make of Kyrie Irving’s announcement? He told season-ticket holders this week that, “if you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next year”. Sounds good to me, especially now that his knee appears to be 100 percent. Wonder if part of the rationale behind Kyrie’s sudden commitment to the Celtics is that it sends the message this championship-caliber nucleus stays together beyond this season, thus putting those Anthony Davis trade rumors back on the table.
Mike: Call me a typical Red Sox fan, but I am worried about this series.
As usual, Todd has done a masterful job breaking things down, so I will keep my thoughts short and sweet.
Sure, the Sox won 108 games, but they seem to be the shakiest 100+ - win team in recent memory. They have so many concerns on their pitching staff, that I won't feel comfortable about them until after I see Price and Sale pitch.
And that's what's bugging me. The Sox were the best team in baseball all season, so why do I look at them as the underdog?
I guess I am just a victim of history, seeing the Yankees across the field, makes me nervous, 2004 notwithstanding. The only good thing is that I have seen them beat the Yankees when it counts, so I know it can happen.
That being said, I can't get over the bad feeling that this playoff run could end quickly as the pitching issues finally do the Sox in.
But also, as a Sox fan, I do have some blind faith that they will get it done.
I agree with Todd, Sox in 5.
For a full Red Sox playoff preview, listen to this week’s TOST ‘Todd-Cast’ at https://soundcloud.com/belmont-media-podcast-network/tost-todd-cast-red-sox-2018-postseason-preview-whowie-chris-mason-cnhi-sports-boston. You can also access the entire library at https://soundcloud.com/belmont-media-podcast-network/sets/tost-todd-cast.
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