By: Dylan Porcaro
The playoffs are right around the corner and for the second straight season the Red Sox find themselves right in the middle of the race. Last year’s expectations were high as the Sox entered the October Classic. In David Ortiz’s final year/postseason, many fans expected him to make one last run at a fourth World Series title. Unfortunately, the Sox were swept by Cleveland in a series where their CY Young winning pitcher (Rick Porcello) gave up five runs in a loss, and their $30-million-dollar pitcher (David Price) also gave up five in a loss, including four runs in the second inning alone. How will this team fare this postseason with the addition of Sale but the loss of their leader Ortiz?
That's the question we’re all eager to find out, and thankfully we will be getting an answer pretty soon. All season long there’s been a leadership problem in the clubhouse, ranging from Betts and Bogaerts explaining the team’s struggles without Ortiz to David Price swearing/yelling at the beloved Red Sox Hall of Famer, Dennis Eckersley. Shortly after the All-Star break it looked like the Sox could fall apart, but instead they fought through the scrutiny and are now preparing for a run at the Pennant.
Just a short while ago the Sox had won nine out of 10 and appeared to be red hot entering the postseason, but two bad losses to Toronto with Pomeranz and Sale on the mound is eye opening. There’s no doubt that Chris Sale has had a remarkable year, as he’s most likely going to end just five strikeouts away from reaching Pedro Martinez’s franchise record of 313 (assuming Sale doesn’t make his last scheduled start on Sunday). When Sale is on, there isn’t any pitcher in the game as dominant as he is. With that said, he has had a few terrible starts this year against both good and bad teams. In his two starts against Cleveland (the best team in the AL, could face them again in playoffs), Sale has given up 13 earned runs and 15 hits in eight innings of work. His last start of the season will wind up being this past one against Toronto (worst team in AL East), in which he gave up five runs on four dingers. It would be foolish to question the mental toughness of Chris Sale; he’s the same guy who smashed a baseball on his head when he failed to cover first base in a spring training game. Someone who brings that type of intensity prior to meaningful games should be totally fine in the playoffs. At the same time, one could easily say that David Price was even better than Sale prior to his first playoff start. It would’ve been crazy to think Price would fail so badly in the postseason, but he simply has never been able to figure it out. Sale is a totally different person both on and off the field than Price, but without any playoff experience it’s hard to know what to expect.
Dave Dombrowski’s deadline deal to acquire Eduardo Nunez didn’t seem too important at the time, especially with the swift emergence of Rafael Devers. It has turned out to maybe be the move that was needed, as Nunez has arguably been the team’s best hitter. In a recent game against the Cincinnati Reds, Nunez’s knee completely gave out as he fell to the ground. On the broadcast, both Eckersley and Remy said that Nunez needs to come out of the game and that he’s seriously hurt. If he’s not 100 percent by the postseason, or even worse not ready to play, it would be a crushing blow for the Red Sox.
As far as the matchups go, it appears that they’ll be playing Houston in the ALDS. The Astros are a very young/inexperienced team, the opposite of the Indians. It would absolutely benefit the Sox if they can hold off from Cleveland until the ALCS. The potential Yankees-Indians series in the first round would be a toss-up, and both have won the season series over Boston. Regardless of who the Red Sox play in October, they will have their work cut out for them.