By Caleb Stine
The Red Sox are World Series Champions.
I mean this both as a cheeky prediction, and a description. For Red Sox fans, the World Series will not be starting October 26th on local Fox affiliates.
It already happened last Tuesday.
Last week, the Gerrit Cole versus Nathan Eovaldi pitching matchup was discussed, and it was fair to say “Nasty Nate” won the tie. A stellar performance of one earned run, just four hits, and not a single walk solidified his place as the Red Sox ace. A few weeks ago I had made the case for Sale to carry that title. Not anymore.
With the Red Sox winning the World Series against the New York Yankees last Tuesday, every win after that is now considered a bonus. Do the Sox really have a shot to win MLB’s “World Series” that takes place weeks after the only one that matters? As always, it depends on a few factors.
The Red Sox Need to Get Serious
After a miracle home run by none other than Christian Vasquez, and a dominant-under-pressure performance from historically mixed-bag Pivetta, the Red Sox could ride the wave of momentum to get to the ALCS.
They shouldn’t, though. It’s in the Sox best interest to focus up, and settle down. The Rays are a dangerous team, and focus and determination to win tonight will fare better than excitement.
The energy coming into tonight should reflect the relieved-yet-still-fighting content and mild celebrations of Friday night’s Game 2 performance, and not one considering the ticket to already be punched to Houston or Chicago.
Balance the Bullpen
Hansel Robles was bailed out of maximum security prison last night. He has Garrett Whitlock and Nick Pivetta to thank for that.
Regularly, it feels as though when Boston’s starting pitching is dismal, the bullpen is strong. Exhibit A. being Game 2, where Houck and Pivetta were able to effectively wipe clean Chris Sale’s atrocious start on Friday night.
Conversely, Eovaldi’s strong performance last night was overshadowed by Robles’ collapse in the eighth. The solution to this problem doesn’t depend on a missing piece. It depends on personnel usage.
If Boston wants to make a serious run for the ALCS and beyond, the bullpen needs to have reliable pitchers pitching on a frequent basis. Said pitchers include Ryan Brasier, Houck, Whitlock, and Josh Taylor, all who have proven to be trusted this postseason. This is October baseball in Boston, and it is necessary for the success of the team for Cora to utilize what has consistently produced results, instead of taking chances and “trying guys out” in the case of Hansel Robles and Austin Davis.
I would also extend the same sentiment to Eduardo Rodriguez and possibly even Chris Sale, it would be irresponsible to expect and plan for them to throw for more than a few innings. It would absolutely be in the Sox best interest to organize nine innings with four or five trustworthy pitchers into future games.
At the time of writing, Eduardo Rodriguez is the tentative starting pitcher for Monday night, which does not excite me considering his last few outings. However, as was outlined in last week’s column, the bullpen with the right handful of guys could lessen the blow of a potential collapse on the mound from E-Rod if necessary.
Get Bats Back
Kiké Hernandez is the hottest hitter on Earth right now. Great.
The meat of Boston’s lineup was frozen solid last night. Xander Bogaerts failed to produce a single hit in five chances, and Alex Verdugo, Rafael Devers, and J.D Martinez all respectively earned one hit in six appearances. While it’s certainly worth noting that all four players in question swung their hearts out Friday night, and put up commendable numbers, the inconsistency of these dependent bats is cause for concern.
If these four sluggers can get on a consistent hitting trend, Boston’s odds of making it to the ALCS and beyond will drastically rule in their favor.
Red Sox: Focus and be determined tonight, and the series is yours. Manage the bullpen well, and the series is yours. Get the whole team to put up hits, and the series is yours. Do what has been done all year in small doses, and the series is yours.
Punch this ticket to the next round. Let’s go.
Featured Image by Patrick Donnelly