Chris Sale will return to the Boston Red Sox’s rotation tonight and everyone in New England will let out a sigh of relief. While the Sox have still managed to maintain their ample lead in the American League divisional race, since Sale was placed on the DL (his last start was on Aug. 12) the Sox have gone 13-10 and they are currently eight games up on the New York Yankees for first place in the division.
But getting Sale back is an important part of the equation for the next few months. Just finishing with the best record in baseball won’t mean much if Boston exits in the first round of the playoffs again. In a way, we are about to get a real preview of just how the Red Sox could construct their playoff rotation in the next three days, with Sale, David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez scheduled to make the next three starts against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Obviously Sale is going to be the game one starter in any series if everything falls into place. Even with time missed due to injury, he should still be the front runner for the AL Cy Young award, what with his microscopic ERA (1.97). More impressive than that is his FIP, which actually sits lower than his ERA. He also leads the league in ERA+, WHIP and strikeouts per nine innings. That last part is something he will have done four times in five years if everything holds.
We all know that Sale is good, but the verdict on Price has not been as open and shut for all of us. The left-hander has proven his doubters in Boston wrong this season, pitching better than any starter on the team not named Christopher Allen Sale. At 14-6 with a 3.57 ERA, Price would be a fine No. 2 starter in the playoffs, especially if he pitches like he did against Houston on Friday and the bullpen holds up behind him. Don’t even try to march out that tired argument that he can’t cut it in the postseason either.
Picking the No. 3 starter for a playoff series should be easy after Price, but it isn’t really. Rick Porcello has been a workhorse, but an up-and-down one. With an ERA+ of 102, he has been right around league average and some inability to record strong finishes to his starts has hurt him of late. But he has also thrown more innings than any Red Sox starter and that durability is a real asset.
Porcello’s durability is in stark contrast to Eduardo Rodriguez, who by numbers alone has been the third-best starter, but due to nagging injuries — a constant issue during his career — he has not been on the mound as much as Boston would like. The lefty has still thrown more than 100 innings of 120 ERA+ ball and before he was shelled by the Astros on Saturday, he had allowed one run over his previous four starts. The problem is that three of those starts were in July, as he missed a good chunk of the summer. He came back and fired 5 2⁄3 innings of one-run ball against the White Sox in his first start back, striking out 12 batters for good measure.
Rodriguez is starting in the series finale against Toronto this week, following right behind Sale and Price. With those two the most sensible choices to be the starters of the first two games of any playoff series, Rodriguez could very well fill the game three role, even if Porcello is the more likely option.
Whether you like sabermetrics or old school stats, you will find your MVP on the Red Sox. (Neil Paine; Five Thirty Eight)
J.D. Martinez is one of those candidates and his triple crown chase will be worth watching the rest of the way. (Ryan Mayer; CBS)
Xander Bogaerts may not win the MVP award, but he’s having quite a year. (Bill Doyle; Press Herald)
Remember when 1918 used to be a jeer? Now we can go back and appreciate that Red Sox team. (Jen McCaffrey; The Athletic) ($$)
Rafael Devers is still going to contribute. Just not as much as expected. (Lauren Campbell; NESN)
Finding a place for Steven Wright on the playoff roster. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)