Soxtober baby! Boy do those words taste great exiting my mouth. It's been a minute since we've gotten to see our beloved Red Sox playing important baseball games down the stretch, let alone playing in the postseason; this year they spoiled us in Papi's last season, accomplishing both feats and throwing us a bone by beating out the Jays and O's and winning the AL East.
However, following the unreal 11-game win streak came a stretch of 1-5 baseball over the final 6 games against the Yankees and Toronto, which ultimately cost the Sox home-field advantage in the playoffs. This isn't a major cause for concern, as the Sox finished with the 3rd best road record in the MLB (46-35), behind only the Cubs and Cardinals.
Looking towards the ALDS matchup vs. the Indians, it's Tito vs. his former pitching coach. This series is going to be an exciting one, as we are going to witness two teams who are fairly balanced in every category. However, the Indians rotation is banged up, as Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are both on the shelf for the ALDS; leaving the Indians with a rotation of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin; a rotation the Red Sox should be able to handle.
On the other hand, Sox send Porcello, Price, Buchholz, and E-Rod at the Tribe.
X-Factor for the Tribe?
Jordan: My X-Factor for the Tribe is the "Other 2." We all know who Corey Kluber is, who's battling a lower-body injury. So Trevor Bauer (12-8 with a 4.26 ERA) and Josh Tomlin (13-9 with a 4.40 ERA) need to step up and pitch well. They're fully capable of it, but they don't scare me and don't match up well against their opponents (Bauer: Gm. 1 vs. Porcello, and Tomlin: Gm. 3 vs. Buchholz).
Pete: The bullpen. Plain and simple. If the Indians can get the lead in the first six innings of this ballgame, then the series is over and the Red Sox will lose. Cody Allen and Andrew Miller are better than anyone in the Red Sox' bullpen. Miller can go multiple innings, and Allen is averaging almost 13 strikeouts per nine innings. If the Indians want to make this a series, they will need to get to the bullpen with a lead.
Kaley: I'd have to say Trevor Bauer. It's kind of a longshot, but I think he could do some damage if he wants to. He's coming off a shaky start against the Royals, allowing them to tie the game by giving up two runs in the sixth, but he has the mental capability to give the Sox a run for their money. He's a fierce competitor and won't give Boston an easy time in Game 1.
X-Factor for the Sox?
Jordan: The obvious answer is the bullpen, but I'm going to shy away from that and lean on the man who's going to have to manage his bullpen almost perfectly in order to lock down close games. Yes, I'm heavily relying on John Farrell in this series. If Farrell can refrain from leaving guys in too long, and ONLY pitching guys to their roles, advantage goes to the Sox.
Pete: I will go out on a limb and say David Price, our $217 million man. I think it is almost a foregone conclusion that the Red Sox could and should win Game One with Rick Porcello on the mound against Trevor Bauer, who has been beaten up by the Red Sox this year. However, in Game Two, the Red Sox will have David Price going against an injured Corey Kluber. This is a huge game and opportunity for Price to finally assert himself in the playoffs.
Kaley: I'm going with Rick Porcello. A Game One win can and will be crucial for success in this series. Like Pete said, they should win this one with Porcello on the mound, but he has to be in Rick Porcello form to do so. Boston has to give him the run support that they did in the regular season and Porcello just has to continue his roll into the postseason. I don't doubt him, but he has to keep on keeping on.
Unsung Hero of the Series:
Jordan: A guy that's been through hell and back this season, Clay Buchholz. We all wanted Clay gone back in June through the middle of August; but he's really been the unsung hero of the second half for the Sox, doing a great job filling in for Steven Wright. I expect him to twirl a gem and, of course, it'll get overlooked. I say 7 innings of 1 run ball, 8 Ks.
Pete: I will say Xander Bogaerts, who has been virtually invisible as of late. Bogaerts does not need to hit the ball out of the ballpark, but rather drive the ball like he was doing at the beginning of the season. With one of the few young guys with postseason experience, Bogaerts has no reason not to succeed.
Kaley: I think Dustin Pedroia could very well play a pivotal role against Cleveland. It depends on what Farrell decides to do to the lineup, but batting Pedey leadoff has been huge for the Red Sox for a couple of months now, though Pedroia isn't fond of that leadoff spot. He's obviously grounded into a lot less double plays, and gets simple base hits when he's needed to and comes up big, without hitting for a lot of power.
Jordan: I don't believe that there is an actual MVP award given in the Division Series, but for sake of the argument, I'm going to go with Hanley Ramirez. Hanley has been on an absolute tear since mid-August and I see him playing a major role on both sides of the game. HanRam for MVP.
Pete: Rick Porcello. I say he goes out in Game One and completely shuts down this Cleveland offense, which was one of the best in the American League. Porcello will set the tone for the entire series and prove why he should be looked at as an ace, if he isn't already.
Kaley: I say Mookie Betts. It's a slight gamble, since he's never played in the postseason before, but I think the kid will do just as good here against Cleveland. Mookie has shown us just what he's capable of, and I see no reason why he can't do the same in the playoffs. Ortiz has to hand the torch off to somebody, and I believe that Betts will make a case for that torch in this series.
Jordan: Sox will, in my opinion, lose one of the first two in Cleveland. But I don't see them losing a game at "Da Pahk" with all their energy surrounding Papi's last postseason. Sox Win 3-1.
Pete: Clean sweep. 3-0 Red Sox. Jordan and I were talking about this earlier this morning, and I just don't see an area where Cleveland has a massive advantage, except maybe the manager. Sure, Cleveland's bullpen is better than Boston's, but that doesn't matter if the Indians can't get the lead earlier in this game. With a bunch of nobodies and an injured Kluber as their starting rotation, the Red Sox should roll.
Kaley: I agree with Jordan, 3-1 Boston. There will be a shaky start out of one of the Sox' starters, and it will cost them a game, but only one game. They're too motivated and too talented to lose any more than one, and the younger players have to be pumped to play postseason ball for the first time in the bigs, and the veterans will lead the way.