CLEVELAND -- Exactly one game separated the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians in the standings over the course of the regular season. The teams are about as evently matched as can be.
Here's a look at how the various positions stack up as we prepare for Game 1 of the ALDS Thursday night in Cleveland:
FIRST BASE: Hanley Ramirez vs. Mike Napoli
Though Carlos Santana gets some playing time here, the Indians mostly go with Napoli, no stranger to Red Sox fans. He may have slightly more power than Ramirez and see more pitches, but he also strikes out at a high rate. Ramirez had a monster second-half and redeemed himself with his transition to first base. Edge: Even
SECOND BASE: Dustin Pedroia vs. Jason Kipnis
Kipnis is sort of a left-handed, younger version of Pedroia. He has a little more power and a few more stolen bases. But Pedroia, healthy for a change, enjoyed a terrific season and remains one of the position's best defenders. Edge: Red Sox
SHORTSTOP: Xander Bogaerts vs. Francisco Lindor
This is a faceoff of two of the best young shortstops in the game. It's hard to believe Bogaerts is in his fourth season already, with Lindor just completing his first full year in the big leagues. Lindor has a slight edge defensively with more range; Bogaerts has more power and is a more polished hitter -- especially with two strikes. Edge: Even
THIRD BASE: Brock Holt/Aaron Hill/Travis Shaw vs Jose Ramirez
The Red Sox have experimented at third all season, trying to find a full-time solution. Holt will see most of the action in this series, with Cleveland using exclusively right-handed starters. He's adequate defensively, and while he can be an offensive sparkplus, doesn't offer much power. Ramirez is an underrated part of the Cleveland lineup, and offers speed and some power. Edge: Indians
OUTFIELD: Andrew Benintendi/Chris Young vs. Rajai Davis Jackie Bradley Jr. vs. Tyler Naquin/Coco Crisp Mookie Betts vs. Lonnie Chisenhall/Brandon Guyer.
Terry Francona has been known to platoon at all three outfield spots. The Red Sox platoon in left, but with three righty starters lineup for Cleveland, Benintendi will get the majority of the playing time there. Bradley is an elite center fielder with pop while Betts may well be the A.L. MVP. The Indians are badly outmatched here. Edge: Red Sox
CATCHER: Sandy Leon vs. Yan Gomes/Roberto Perez/Chris Gimenez
A healthy Gomes would swing this debate to Cleveland, but he's just now returning from hand and shoulder injuries and is nowhere near 100 percent. Leon seemed to tire at the plate late in the season, but still gave the Red Sox much more than they could have hoped for. Edge: Red Sox
DH: David Ortiz vs. Carlos Santana
Santana is a selective hitter with good power (34 homers), but he's no match for Ortiz -- especially in October. Edge: Red Sox
STARTING ROTATION: Rick Porcello/David Price/Clay Buchholz/Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Trevor Bauer/Cory Kluber/Josh Tomlin
The Red Sox don't own a postseason win from any of their starters, but overall, the rotation is a strength -- a far cry from last season. Porcello's turnaround has made him into a legitimate No. 1. The Indians are without both Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar; with them, this would have been an entirely different series. As it is, Terry Francona may have both Bauer and Kluber pitch on short rest. Edge: Red Sox.
BULLPEN: Craig Kimbrel/Koji Uehara/Brad Ziegler vs Cody Allen/Bryan Shaw/Andrew Miller
Assuming Kimbrel has straightened out the command issues he fought in the last week of the season, this is a formidable group, especially if lefty Drew Pomeranz can become a postseason weapon. Still, they're no match for the Indians, who can utilize Miller in almost any role or inning. Edge: Indians
BENCH: Chris Young/Travis Shaw/Aaron Hill/Christian Vazquez vs. Yan Gomes/Coco Crisp/Brandon Guyer
Given Francona's penchant for matchups and platoons, his bench will be more active. But the Red Sox have experienced role players and more power in their extras. Edge: Red Sox
MANAGERS: John Farrell vs. Terry Francona
These good friends turn competitors for the next week. Farrell has a World Series win to his credit, but Francona is the better in-game tactician and has two World Series rings. Edge: Indians
The injuries to the Cleveland rotation will be felt. The Red Sox are the superior offensive team and their starting pitching is strong enough. RED SOX in four games.