On the line, the AL pennant and a trip to the World Series.
This is the first time since 2008 that the Red Sox have advanced in the playoffs while the Tigers are the defending AL champions.
Before the Sox and Tigers tangle, let us look at some things the Red Sox did well against Tampa along with things they did not and things they botched.
–The backend of the bullpen was fantastic. In nine innings, the combination of Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara allowed a single run, Jose Lobaton’s game-winning home run off Uehara in Game 3.
–Jacoby Ellsbury did his best Rickey Henderson impression against the Rays.
Tampa pitchers could not keep him off base as Ellsbury had an on-base percentage of .529. He also hit .500, stole four bases and scored seven runs.
If he can do that against the Tigers, Fenway will see another World Series. GOOD
–Farrell came into the postseason unproven on the big stage. He also faced off against one of the most aggressive managers of the game in Joe Maddon.
Farrell proved he could be aggressive as well.
Whether he knew when to steal bases or to pull a pitcher, Farrell played the correct hunches. Boston swiped six bags and Breslow gave Farrell dominance in the sixth and seventh. GOOD
–As crucial as Dustin Pedroia’s ability to turn double plays in the crunch time of Game 2, his cutting off Stephen Drew on the shortstop side of second base in Tampa hurt the team and himself.
Drew and Pedroia tangled in Game 3 on a grounder that saw Pedroia hurt his neck and the Sox end up getting no one out. He did it again in Game 4 and turned a sure out at first into a single.
Pedroia plays with an intensity similar to Pete Rose, but he has to channel that and let his teammates do their job.
With Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the Tiger lineup, those mistakes can magnify in a hurry. BAD
–Clay Buchholz pitched nervous in his lone start.
His pitches showed little movement and did not have the 94-95 mph velocity he has.
Perhaps taking the ball Sunday at Fenway in Game 2 will settle him.
Buchholz did not pitch poorly, three earned runs over six innings, but he did not look right either. BAD
–Red Sox hitters whiffed 33 times in four games.
There is nothing good that comes out of a strikeout. They do not move runners. They do not score runs.
Now the Sox face a pitching staff that features three starters that fanned over 200 batters this year.
They must show patience against Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. They have to draw that pitch count as high as they can. If the series goes the distance, Boston will see this group six out of seven games.
You cannot give nearly nine nonproductive outs away a game. UGLY
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.
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