As the season winds down playoff contenders are beginning to game-plan for their potential first round opponents. More than likely, the Sox will encounter either Houston or Cleveland in the ALDS. For the majority of the season, the Astros were the heavy favorite to win the AL due to their remarkable offense and above-average pitching staff. However, thanks to a historic run, the Indians have emerged as the clear AL favorite and possibly World Series favorite as well. The Tribe is currently sitting on a a 21-game win streak, an all time American League record. Meanwhile, Houston is just 18-21 since the beginning of August. Safe to say that Red Sox Nation hopes to face Houston in the ALDS.
Houston is a favorable match-up for Boston
The Red Sox have no reason to think twice about playing the Astros in the first round. Houston is actually a sub .500 team since the All-Star break with a record of just 27-28. Sure, Correa, Springer and Keuchel have all spent time on the DL. But a sub .500 performance doesn’t approach playoff-caliber baseball, despite any injuries a team undergoes.
On the other hand, the Red Sox have gone 32-23 since the All-Star break. Keuchel and Verlander hold down the front of Houston’s rotation. An intimidating duo at first glance, but further speculation exposes their true identity. Keuchel has not pitched well lately. He owns an ERA of 5.59 over his last three starts. Verlander boasts an exceptional 2.20 ERA over the last month. But baseball fans know he has become rather inconsistent in recent years. Due to Keuchel’s struggles and Verlander’s inconsistency, Houston’s rotation becomes a serious concern for Astros fans. As a staff, Houston’s pitchers own an ERA of 4.35 over the last month, which does not compare favorably to the Red Sox ERA of 3.87 over the same stretch. Also, the Astros offense has struggled down the stretch. As a team they are batting a modest .244 over the past 28 days. With Houston’s mediocre second-half pitching, hitting and overall play they have fallen as a legitimate world series contender. The Red Sox should be confident in their chances of beating them.
Why Cleveland is road block for the Sox
The Red Sox will likely have to play Cleveland at some point in the playoffs. This could be a potential problem. But, remember that anyone can win come playoff time. As I mentioned earlier, the Indians are in the middle of a record-breaking win streak which currently stands at 21. Tito and company have certainly been playing phenomenal baseball as of late. During the streak they have outscored opponents 139-35 and have trailed in just five innings. Dominant starting pitching has led their success as they claimed 19 of the 21 wins during the streak. In total, the Indians pitchers boast a 1.79 ERA during this incredible stretch.
Their spectacular offense has batted .284 and slugged 50 home runs since the start of the streak. The Red Sox will certainly have their hands full if they encounter the Tribe. Chris Sale’s poor career numbers against Cleveland remain a central concern for the Sox. In his career he is 5-8 with a 4.78 ERA, certainly not Sale-like numbers. Despite Sale’s struggles against the Indians, I personally trust him on the mound in any situation. He has established himself as a true ace and an elite pitcher in the middle of a historic season. At the end of the day Chris Sale is Chris Sale and he should be trusted no matter the opponent.
American League Title is up for grabs
The postseason is going to be here before we know it. It appears that that the Red Sox will have to face Cleveland in order to make it to the World Series. Let us not forget that the city of Boston in underdog scenarios. With a big 11-1 thrashing over Oakland last night, the Red Sox may be heating up just in time. This team has shown flashes of brilliance over the course of the season and I am sensing a joyfully dramatic playoff run for this group. When Boston plays their own brand of aggressive, tenacious and determined baseball, they can beat anyone. Red Sox Nation, I ask you to please remember this; Boston has already beaten Cleveland four times in seven tries this year. They can do it again. Lets go Sox! Win. Dance. Repeat.
*Statistics accurate as of 9/13/17* Follow me on twitter @MLBfromNH (Kevin Civiello)