The Cleveland Indians have waited seven years for this postseason rematch with the Boston Red Sox. Back in 2007, the Indians held a 3-1 series lead in the ALCS, but Boston stormed back and went on to win the World Series.
Now, we get a rematch with two highly powered offenses.
The Red Sox offense was the best in baseball this season leading in batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.348) and slugging percentage (.461). The Sox also scored 5.42 runs per game, which was the best in baseball. They were led by the magical and historical final season of David Ortiz.
Ortiz led had a slash line of .315/.401/.620 with 38 home runs and 127 RBIs, which was tied for the most in the American League. Mookie Betts, who is an MVP candidate, batted .318 with 31 home runs, 113 RBIs and 214 hits. Veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia also had a .318 batting average and 201 hits. Hanley Ramirez finally lived up to his paycheck and hit 30 home runs and 111 RBIs.
Cleveland is capable of keeping up with the Red Sox, despite being outscored 31-18 in the regular season series, which Boston won 4-2. The Indians ranked fifth in batting average (.262), seventh in on-base percentage (.329) and eighth in slugging percentage (.430), while scoring 4.83 runs per game.
Third baseman Jose Ramirez of the Indians led the team with a .312 batting average, had 176 hits and 62 RBIs. Right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall had a stellar season in bounce-back form, batting .286. Mike Napoli was the lone member of the team to have more than 100 RBIs. Shortstop Francisco Lindor batted .301 and knocked in 78 runs.
For as good as those offenses are, the pitching will be the key in this series. Rick Porcello had a career-year for Boston, finishing 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and 189 strikeouts. David Price, who the Sox acquired in the offseason for $217 million dollars, had an up-and-down season, finished 17-9 with a 3.99 ERA and 228 strikeouts. If he can be the guys the Red Sox acquired for the postseason, this team will be better off.
The Indians have had a run-in with the injury bug as two key starts were injured this season. Carlos Carrasco is out for the postseason after taking a liner to his hand, breaking a bone. He was 11-8 with a 3.32 ERA before the injury. Danny Salazar suffered from a flexor muscle issue and could be used in the postseason. Corey Kluber is the best Cleveland pitcher with an 18-9 record and a 3.14 ERA along with 22\ strikeouts.
The bullpens will be the major key of this series. Boston has a formidable bullpen, but closer Craig Kimbrel has not been on his game as of late, including walking six of the last 13 batters he faced in the regular season. Koji Uehara returned from the disabled list and has been effective, even more so than Kimbrel. Cleveland bolstered its already stout bullpen by acquiring closer Andrew Miller from the Yankees, but his role is a bit different for the Tribe. Instead of closing the door in the ninth inning, Terry Francona (former Red Sox manager) relies on Miller to come in and get key outs when the game is up for grabs.
Cleveland has home field advantage in this best-of-five series due to having a better regular season record than Boston. If the Red Sox can continue to be the best offense in baseball, have their starters go deep into the game, limiting the bullpen’s workload, John Farrell and company will be in good shape. If the Indians can keep up offensively with the Red Sox, this can be the year they get their sweet revenge from 2007.
Can the magical farewell tour of Big Papi continue or will Cleveland ruin all the fun and games?