A look at the Red Sox-Indians ALDS matchup
It's official, the Red Sox and Indians will face each other in the ALDS. While we await for the two to decide on home field advantage, Nick Friar takes a look at the matchup.
2016 vs. Boston
The Indians finished 2-4 against the Red Sox in 2016 and got outscored 31-18.
The most notable matchup between the two teams was the final one, on August 15, when Boston started an 11-game road trip with a makeup game in Cleveland. Not only was it a big win in a one-run against a playoff team, but that was the turning point in Boston’s 2016 season -- paving the way to the A.L. East title.
For all the news their starting pitching’s made this season, the Indians' offense has been just as important. Cleveland finished fourth in all of baseball in runs per game (4.82) to help sixth in run differential (plus 92).
A big reason for that is the resurgence of ex-Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli, who launched 34 home runs in 2016, tying Carlos Santana’s total.
The rest of the Indians’ infield has been great at the plate, too. Jason Kipnis has 23 home runs and a .275 average, Francisco Lindor’s hitting .300 with 14 home runs and Jose Ramirez has 22 stolen bases and 11 home runs, while hitting .311.
They also have some added depth to the lineup with Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall producing respectable seasons with Michael Brantley absent from the outfield.
Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are as good a 1-2 punch as any. And what separates them from the rest of the playoff eighth- and ninth-inning tandems is they can both pitch in either situation -- they aren’t fussy.
Additionally, they’ve got arms like Dan Otero (1.57 ERA) in 69 innings and Bryan Shaw -(25 holds) to work with Allen and Miller.=
Red Sox Nation is all too familiar with Terry Francona’s work as a manager.
He’s clearly shown he’s a difference-making manager with any franchise he’s with. And having a steady bullpen only makes his life easier.
Starting pitching got the Indians to this point, and starting pitching will be the undoing of this team, too.
The staff caught the injury bug at pretty much the worst time possible, losing Danny Salazar (forearm) and Carlos Carrasco (finger) late. To make matters worse, their Cy Young-candidate ace, Corey Kluber (quad), could be out, too.
Cleveland expects Kluber will make a start in the ALDS, but with cold weather may create issues for his quad injury.
The injuries to Salazar and Carrasco put Trevor Bauer as the No. 2 and Josh Tomlin as the No. 3. Not only is that far from the best rotation in the American League, it's possibly the worst among the A.L. postseason teams.
If Salazar were able to make a miraculous comeback, that might change the picture. But he hasn’t thrown in a game since September 9.
The starting pitching is the one noteworthy weakness with Cleveland. Unfortunately it’s a big one -- and quite possibly the worst weakness to have in the postseason.
Boston should win this matchup decisiveley. The Red Sox have the better starting rotation and offense, and while the Indians bullpen is superior, that can't win the series alone.