The Red Sox are in the playoffs with a magic number of one to secure the AL East title. The journey to the World Series starts now.

‘Stros and the Tribe Up Next

There is a good chance that will happen, but then the fun begins. With the Astros and the Indians still competing for home field advantage, the Red Sox have a mountain to climb.  Both possible opponents have been among the best and most consistent teams of 2017.  The Indians have won 100 games, the Astros 99.  The Astros lead the MLB in batting average, RBI, OBP, SLG, OPS, runs, hits and doubles. Offensively, they are a machine with a line up deeper than the Atlantic.  While their pitching is not as strong, the team ERA is 4.13, they strike out a lot of batters and are above average in just about every way.  The also have former CY Young winners in Keuchal and Verlander who have sampled the play offs before.

The Indians also play on the back of that record-breaking winning streak with high confidence. Offensively not as strong as the Astros, but The Indians remain in the top five in most categories.  Their pitching is their strong card. They have the best team ERA, most strikeouts, most complete games, a second best WHIP of 1.17 and they have Terry Francona, a manager who has won and lost in the World Series and understands how to manage his pitching staff in the post season cauldron.

The Up and Down Sox

At the moment, the Red Sox are frustratingly inconsistent. They have the talent but can’t seem to put it all together over a sustained period.  There is no doubt the Red Sox are down on power at the plate. They rank just 27th in home runs with just a mere 167 this season.  The team slugging percentage is just .408, down in 25th spot with an OPS of just .738.

It is brighter on the defensive side. The Red Sox have the fourth-best ERA of 3.71, the third most strikeouts a WHIP of 1.25 and Chris Sale, who on his day is one of the top-three pitchers in the whole MLB.  The problem is that the Red Sox have pitched the most innings of any team, mainly because run support had often been non-existent. Chris Sale has pitched more innings than anyone and it’s beginning to show.  That said, there has been a recent and alarming tendency by the pitching staff to give up runs in the first inning. With the current, offensive state of play its game over.

We know the Indians will have a game plan for the playoffs. We saw it last year and no doubt it will happen again.  The Astros will let their bats do the talking and will just try and outscore everyone. Any off day from a Red Sox pitcher will be punished.

If the Red Sox are to make it to the World Series, it is likely they will have to beat both the Indians and the Astros. To do that they are going to have to shut down the Astros’ offense and overcome Kluber, Miller and co.

That’s a tough ask.