EVERYTHING IS PERFECT RIGHT?
2018 AL East Champions. Celebrating on Yankees field. If you are a Red Sox fan like me, this season has been a pure joy to watch! 100 wins for the first time since Ted Williams was knocking balls around in the forties. This team has a little bit of everything, speed, power, good pitching. What will happen when the New York Yankees roll into Fenway this Friday night? All of Red Sox nation will be biting their nails in anticipation. Does it get any better than this?
Alex Cora should be favored to be the manager of the year for sure (Kevin Cash a close 2nd in Tampa followed by Bob Melvin in Oakland), who has made a significant impact on what is happening right now. The offense is aggressive, which he demanded from his players whom he called passive in plate approach last year. He has had the Midas touch calling upon the right players at the right time. Most importantly, the players like him, unlike John Farrell and it shows.
JD Martinez (43 HR’s 130 RBI’s 330 AVG.) has more than earned his big free agent salary. He is battling his teammate, Mookie Betts (32 HR’s 80 RBI’s 30 SB .346 AVG.) for the coveted MVP title and had an outside shot at winning the triple crown for most of the year. Mookie is the better all-around player (first player since Jacoby Ellsbury to get 30 Home Runs and 30 Stolen Bases), but JD has added that middle of the line-up bat that has made everybody better. The only significant difference from last year to this year has been his offensive production, hence why I lean towards giving him the MVP.
It’s been a historically fantastic year for the Boston Red Sox. They broke the team record for wins with 108. The last team to get close to that won 105 games when some guy by the name of Babe Ruth was on the club back in 1912. That’s a long time ago. They are AL East Champions for a third straight year which is very impressive. All that means nothing if they don’t win it all.
Ask the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won an astounding 116 games with Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, and Ichiro Suzuki how they felt when they got beat by the Yankees in the playoffs. You forget about what that team accomplished. Let’s make this clear; the Houston Astros remain the team to beat as the playoffs begin. They are experienced, loaded, full of front-line starters like Justin Verlander, but if the Red Sox don’t win this year breaking all these vaunted team records, the season will be considered a major disappointment.
David Price (16-7 3.58 ERA) is the key figure and needs to pitch the way he has in the 2nd half of the season come Saturday night. His only kryptonite recently has been the Yankees. The playoffs have been a nightmare for him and he desperately needs a dominant post-season win.
Chris Sale must show that he is healthy. He didn’t finish up the year strong so a lot of answers will come tomorrow night. Will his control and nasty slider be back or is the velocity dip going to rear its ugly head. Just don’t ask him about his success vs the Yankees this year (2-0 0.69 ERA with 19 strikeouts). He looks mad and ready to go which is a good sign but his shoulder is the biggest story going into game one.
Rick Porcello (17-7 4.28 ERA) has to find some October success or all this is for not. The talent is there and he had an amazing start versus the Yankees in early August, throwing a one-hitter. His issues against New York has come at Yankees Stadium. Porcello is currently penciled in to be the game three starter. The results in the playoffs for those three pitchers have not been. As good as the vibe that Red Sox Nation is feeling, it’s all about finishing for a team who has struggled in the playoffs lately. Pitching will be key.
THE GOAL & PRESSURE!
This team has given its fans many an incredible moment, like in Atlanta a few weeks back, down 7-1 in the 8th inning coming from behind capped by a Brandon Phillips Home Run. Every night it seemed like a new hero would pop up like Blake Swihart, Jackie Bradley Jr. or Mitch Moreland. All those memories will be for not without an appearance in the Fall Classic.
With the biggest payroll, a stacked line-up, power, and speed, it’s the starting pitching that will determine the result. People are also very concerned with the bullpen, which has been for the most part strong all year. Joe Kelly has lost it (4-2 4.39 ERA). Matt Barnes, Has had some rough stretches due to a recent injury. Heath Hembree has given up the long ball a lot lately.
The key to the Bullpen success was little known, Ryan Brasier (2-0 1.60 ERA 0.77 WHIP) who has been the find of the year. He has been a solid bridge to Kimbrel. Craig Kimbrel is one of the best closers in all of baseball. He posted solid numbers, (5-1 42 Saves 2.74 ERA) and can be unhittable.
Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez will add serious velocity to the pen. Whoever does not get the 4th starters job in the postseason will be that guy, and Steven Wright will add his nasty knuckleball to give the Red Sox depth and variety in the bullpen. It’s the big three starters Sale, Price, and Porcello (2-13 with an ERA over 5 in the post-season) who carry the burden of this teams success.
108 wins is a fantastic accomplishment, the regular season was a blast to watch but it is the 11 wins that come this October that will determine this team’s success and place in history. Evoke the spirits of Curt Schilling, David Roberts, Big Papi, Manny, Dustin Pedroia and figure out how to succeed in the playoffs. Since 2013, Boston is 1-6. If the BoSox don’t win it all, then the year will feel empty and considered a failure.