Playoff Reset: Red Sox vs. Indians ALDS Game 1

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The Game: Boston Red Sox @ Cleveland Indians, ALDS Game 1
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Rick Porcello (Red Sox) vs. Trevor Bauer (Indians)

The Upshot:

  • This series features the top two run-scoring lineups in the American League, with Boston averaging 5.42 runs a game and Cleveland averaging 4.83. Both teams can hit the ball deep, but neither is overly-dependent on the longball, with the Sox 7th in homers in the AL, the Indians 10th. They both get on base like crazy and hit balls in every gap you can find. Not that there aren’t power guys all over the place too. Two on Boston — Mookie Betts and David Ortiz — are MVP candidates and a third, Hanley Ramirez, joined those two in the 30-HR club. For the Indians, Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli hit 34 a piece. Both Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis rattled 40+ doubles off the walls. The Indians led the AL in steals and both teams are excellent on the base paths overall. Boston catchers, however, led by Sandy Leon, have controlled the running game pretty darn well. Look for a lot of guys on both teams trying to stretch singles into doubles and trying to go from first-to-third.
  • Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15), a top Cy Young contender this year, is no stranger to the Indians by virtue of his time in Detroit. He faced the Tribe once this season: back in May, when he allowed two runs in five and two-thirds. The Indians are heavily left-handed and/or switch hitting, but the righty Porcello was actually better against left-handers in 2016 than righties, allowing a lower average, OBP and slugging percentage against them and allowing fewer homers and striking out a lot more of them despite facing lefties more than he faced righties. Take that, platoon advantage.
  • Bauer(12-8, 4.26) gets the nod for Cleveland. He started against Boston in May and allowed four runs in five innings. He had one relief appearance against them in the season’s first week and allowed two runs in an inning. Facing off against the Red Sox offense — the best in the game by a pretty big margin — isn’t easy for anyone, of course.
  • Cleveland’s big advantage is in the bullpen. Yes, the Sox made a big splash in snagging Craig Kimbrel last winter, but he has been erratic at times this year and is not the Kimbrel you might remember from his Braves days. The Indians, in contrast, have Andrew Miller, who can be deployed at any time and can handle multiple innings, like some latter-day Goose Gossage. And that’s before you get to Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, each of whom have been dominant at times and who, along with Miller, can really make for short games.
  • The Red Sox won the season series against the Indians four games to two, and they outscored Cleveland 31-18. That said, almost all of those games were a long time ago and one of them was an August makeup game of a rainout. Head-to-head tells us nothing here.
  • Cleveland’s injuries are a big problem for them, particularly the loss of starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. Corey Kluber is going to pitch, but he is coming off of a leg injury last week, so he’s worth watching. We’ll get into more of that as the series wears on and other pitchers take their turn for Cleveland.
  • Terry Francona, former Red Sox manager, meets John Farrell, his former pitching coach, who now helms Boston. If you look around I’m sure there are one or two or a hundred articles about that in the Boston media, but this is not some Darth Vader-Obi-Wan confrontation. To the extent there is drama about it, it’s in the press, not between the principles.

While the Blue Jays and Rangers series may be the most evenly matched, this one may be more intriguing and more exciting. It certainly has greater star power, which is why it’s in prime time as opposed to drive time. While you can expect a lot of tight camera shots of David Ortiz and Terry Francona, there is talent all over this field and pouring out of each dugout. It should be exciting.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.