The Red Sox have spent the majority of this year being good. Granted, there have been some lulls in their play and times when it looked like they were ready to fall out of contention altogether, but that’s just baseball. Every team goes through those periods. Go look at what Indians fans were saying about their team in late July and early August. Despite the fact that the Red Sox have had control of their division for the last couple of months and that they’ve been good almost all year, the most common thing I hear about this team is that they can’t win in the postseason. Whenever something good happens, the retort is that they are going to get swept in the first round anyway. I understand where it’s coming from. The lineup doesn’t look like the kinds of Red Sox lineups we’ve seen win the World Series and they disappear for days at a time. That’s not great! Despite all that, this team just continues to give you reasons to believe in their ability to win in October. It’s up to you whether or not you want to get your hopes up.
The Starting Pitching
A funny thing has happened this year. For the first time I can ever remember, people are starting to say that good lineups win in the postseason. It’s strange, of course, because when the Red Sox had great lineups over the course of the last decade, what we heard was that pitching wins in October. The real answer, of course, is that good teams win in the playoffs and there are many ways to do it. The Red Sox have their formula, and that includes big-time starting pitching. Chris Sale hasn’t pitched as well as we hope of late, but he’s still Chris Sale and I’m going to be confident every time he’s on the mound. One can worry all they want about Drew Pomeranz fading with his inning load, but I’ll wait until he shows any sign of that. Eduardo Rodriguez is hitting his stride again and finally starting to mix his pitches from the first inning on. Rick Porcello....well, Rick Porcello is at least showing some flashes and we’ve seen that he can be one of the best pitchers in baseball when he’s on. Starting pitching winning in October is an adage as old as baseball itself, and the Red Sox have some great starting pitching.
The Relief Pitching
One of the reasons the Indians are the favorites to win the American League right now is their bullpen. Their two-headed monster of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller is unmatched in baseball and everyone who isn’t afraid of them is crazy. That being said, the Red Sox have a hell of a bullpen themselves, even if it doesn’t have that kind of one-two punch. They do have Craig Kimbrel, who has arguably been better than both Allen and Miller this year. There’s no reason to believe John Farrell won’t lean heavily on his closer in October. They also have Addison Reed, who has had a couple rough outings here and there but has more often shown that he can come through in the big spot. Just look at how he got himself out of that jam on Monday night. When you throw David Price into the mix, baby you got a stew goin’. This bullpen has done nothing but put up results all year, particularly in extra innings when the pressure is kicked up a notch, and there’s little reason to believe that will change in October.
They beat good teams
One of the most frustrating parts of this season is that the Red Sox haven’t been able to do major damage against their division this year. That’s always annoying, and I can’t really argue against people that are upset about this. The one retort I do have is that they play in a good division that has had four teams contending for a playoff spot for most of the season. Most divisions in the league cannot say that. Despite the lackluster performance against these teams, the Red Sox have done well against good teams. On the whole, they’ve gone 28-24 against teams with records above .500, the fifth best record in baseball. Cleveland and Houston are number one and number two in baseball, but with records of 28-21 and 25-20, respectively, the difference between them in Boston isn’t massive. There’s also the fact that, ya know, the Red Sox have winning records against both of the top two teams in the American League. That’s gotta count for something, right?
They keep winning late in games
Here is the biggest reason to believe in the Red Sox, and where they’ve provided the most excitement all year long. This team just keeps winning late in games. They’ve completed comeback victories a whopping forty times this year. They’ve won fifteen games when trailing in the sixth or later. They’ve won sixteen games when trailing or being tied entering the ninth. That is all bananas. One reason is, of course, the bullpen. They have dominated in extra innings and they’ve kept the team in games long enough for the offense to do its thing. The offense also deserves credit. While they’ve been frustrating a whole lot this year, there’s no quit in the unit. They’ve stepped up against opposing bullpens all year as well as late in games. There’s some magic in this team, if you’re into that sort of thing.
At the end of the day, I’m not going to sit here and say the Red Sox are guaranteed for a strong postseason run. My official position is that trying to predict October baseball is setting yourself up to look stupid. That being said, if you are one of those people who says there’s no reason to believe this team can win in October, you’re either willfully ignoring the positives with this roster or you’re not paying attention. If it’s the latter, I suggest you start because you’re missing a fun ride.