(credit to Detroit News for the image. Note to Detroit News – we’re not making any money off of this. Still, if you want us to take it down, just post here and we will)
3-2, 8 more to go.
Look, I’m happy to be here.
It’s better than the alternative.
But champagne parties seems a little excessive for one playoff series win. That I can think of, baseball is the only sport that goes to such extremes for advancing in the playoffs.
We’ve been here before. This is our fourth time in eight years to make it to the ALCS. We could be in the midst of a dynasty, to be honest (though we’d need two WS wins I think to qualify). At least perhaps we are building one. But let’s not act as if winning the first round of the AL playoffs means we have accomplished anything. This team was built to do one thing and we’re still 8 wins away.
Tom Verducci of SI had some fascinating stats in the SI playoff preview last week. The gist of the article discussed the whimsical nature of MLB playoffs, especially with the advent of the wild card. I think we’re all well aware of the A’s struggles in recent years, mostly at the hands of the Tigers, but did you know that Atlanta has now lost 7 straight post-season series? Over the past 22 postseasons, only 3 teams with the regular season best record went on to win the WS. In the 22 years before that, 8 teams did it. Last year’s Giants finished last in the majors in home runs…we saw what happened in the World Series. Home teams went 2-5 in elimination games last year, and are 2-3 so far this year.
On to the series at hand. The 2013 American League Championship series pits the top two offensive teams in the Majors, and numbers 3 (Boston) and 4 in terms of payroll. The Red Sox are good, very good. They led the AL with 97 wins this year, and really ran away with the toughest division in Baseball. As one of my friends remarked to me this year, how? How different are they than last year’s last place team?
Well, for one, the entire lineup is solid. Napoli was a steal in free agency. Ortiz has regained his science assisted form, and they still have Ellsbury and Pedroia, two of the better all-around players in the game. Their starting pitching has been solid top to bottom, and their bullpen as been one of the best, ending in the nearly unhittable Koji Uehara. Uehara’s WHIP this year was .565. In 74 1/3. I’m serious. BAA – .130, OPS against – .400. Oh, and Bobby Valentine is gone. Maybe there is something to that morale thing.
Your 2013 AL ERA title holder, Anibal Sanchez, gets the call for game one. Trivia for you – Sanchez started his career in the Red Sox system, before being traded away to Florida, and ultimately stolen by the Tigers. Despite his poor outing against Oakland last week, I love this match-up. Sanchez doesn’t have much of a track record against the current Red Sox lineup, which generally is an advantage for the pitcher.
The Red Sox take more pitches than any other team in the majors. In fact, they saw over 1,000 more than the next most patient team. That can wreak havoc on a staff. The key tonight will be first pitch strikes. Sanchez was 16th in the AL last year,a t 61.5%. That’s good, but it won’t be good enough tonight. Lester was just a few spots behind Sanchez at 60.9%.
Phil Coke was added to the playoff roster today, replacing Putkonen. The reason is likely because Ortiz is a lifetime 2-18 off of Coke, or perhaps Leyland likes to stress everyone out. Probably the former.
Lineup notes: Looks like Leyland is going to stick with Jackson in the leadoff hole. I’m okay with this. If we can win without him going, imagine what we can do when he does get going. And he’s bound to do so, soon. Peralta and Iglesias start today. This makes me very nervous with the Green Monster in left, but with a left-handed pitcher, I get it. What contradicts this is Avila getting the start again despite just 2 hits and a .449 OPS in the ALDS. He’s doing a great job of calling games and I’m sure that’s whey Leyland has him back there, but you gotta give Pena a chance to give your offense some help, especially with the struggles at the 1 & 9 spots.
1. Jackson, CF
2. Hunter, RF
3. Cabrera, 3B
4. FIelder, 1B
5. Martinez, DH
6. Peralta, LF
7. Infante, 2B
8. Avila, C
9. Iglesias, SS
1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Victorino, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Ortiz, DH
5. Napoli, 1B
6. Nava, LF
7. Drew, SS
8. Middlebrooks, 3B
9. Ross, C (this is literally the first time I have ever heard of this guy)