Red Sox Versus Indians: 2016 ALDS Preview

The Red Sox are about to embark on their first postseason run since 2013. More importantly, it will be just the second time in seven years that October baseball will visit Boston. So, what can fans expect in the American League Division Series, and will the Red Sox advance?

Red Sox

Well, it’s perhaps easier to answer the first question. Boston has a first round matchup with the Cleveland Indians, needing three wins to advance. The first two games will be played at Progressive Field, with the next two at Fenway Park. If a deciding fifth contest is needed, the teams will travel back to Cleveland, which has experienced something of a baseball revival in recent months.

Cleveland Will Test the Red Sox

The Indians have a fascinating history. From the days of Cy Young and Nap Lajoie through to Bob Feller and Larry Doby, and on to Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, Cleveland has built some very good teams. However, that effort has yielded just two world championships, and none since 1948. Still, the Cavaliers won an NBA title this year, ending Cleveland’s notorious drought, so perhaps there’s a little magic in the air by Lake Erie.

A familiar friend captains the Cleveland ship. Terry Francona, the mastermind of two World Series championships for the Red Sox, has been the Indians’ manager since 2013. The first few years were rough, but a core of young players has since emerged, with shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jason Kipnis leading Cleveland to its first full postseason series since 2007. Attendance has increased for Indians home games, and this is definitely a team looking to progress swiftly.

The Indians Are Struggling With Injuries

Francona won’t be able to rely much on his vaunted starting rotation in this series, though. The Indians pitched to a 3.86 ERA during the regular season, much better than the Red Sox’ 4.00 mark. However, the Indians have lost Carlos Carrasco to injury. Ace Corey Kluber will return from a scare to pitch in Game 2, but Danny Salazar, the third head of this tremendous trident, has not made the ALDS roster thanks to a strained forearm.

Essentially, the Indians’ biggest strength has been decimated by injuries. Trevor Bauer and his 4.42 career ERA will start Game 1 against the Red Sox, while Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger aren’t exactly petrifying. Nevertheless, Boston cannot take anything for granted, especially given the erratic nature of its own pitching staff.

The Red Sox do have a considerable advantage in terms of offense. Boston scored 101 more runs than Cleveland during the regular season, and also had a far superior run differential. Those statistics may not play especially well in a short series, but no team in baseball can fully match the Red Sox with regard to a dynamic lineup that can score in multiple ways. If the bats keep producing at their normal clip, and the pitching holds up, it will be really difficult for the Indians to stick with the Red Sox.

Of course, nothing is ever easy in October. All of these teams emerged from the enormous grind of a season to earn this opportunity. But the Indians seem to be falling apart physically at the worst possible time, affording the Red Sox a brilliant chance of advancing.

So strap yourself in. It’s time to get excited. Let’s see if Big Papi and the Red Sox have one more run in them, when it really matters most.

Pawtucket Red Sox Fall To Indians, 3-1; Nava continues streak

PawSox pitcher Allen Webster

Pawtucket Red Sox starter Allen Webster

The Pawtucket Red Sox faced two familiar foes as they lost to the Indianapolis Indians 3-1 at Victory Field on Wednesday night. After putting up with a familiar opponent this season in Mother Nature, they endured yet another rain delay, this one lasting 37 minutes to push back the start of the game. The delay didn’t seem to faze their on-field opponent, as Indy pitchers Casey Sadler and Jake Brigham combined on a two-hitter. Sadler allowed only one hit (infield single) to Garin Cecchini and just three walks in six strong innings. Brigham, making his first relief appearance of the season, went the remainder of the game, and allowed one hit and a pair of walks to record his first save.

Indianapolis struck for a pair of runs in the first against PawSox starter Allen Webster, who for the second straight game had been affected by a rain delay. Webster then settled down and retired 14 consecutive batters. The righty struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings pitched, the most for any Pawsox pitcher in an outing this season, yet still earned a hard-luck loss.

Chris Dickerson led off the first with a double against Webster and was driven in later in the inning on a Brent Morel single to right. Matt Hague followed with an RBI double to deep center that scored Morel to make it 2-0.

Sadler allowed his only run in the fourth on a two-out, bases-loaded walk to Alex Hassan. The run was set up by right fielder Gregory Polanco’s two-base fielding error, on which Polanco dropped a line drive hit by Daniel Nava, who extended his hitting streak to six games, and is batting .285 in that stretch. Sadler struck out seven and threw 96 pitches in his six innings of work, and improved his record to 4-1.

Dickerson’s RBI single against PawSox reliever Dalier Hinojosa in the seventh inning provided the Indians with an insurance run. He and Hague each collected two of Indianapolis’ six hits. Nava collected the second hit for Pawtucket in the eighth inning. The PawSox had collected 33 hits in the three games prior to Wednesday, and came into the game with a .280 batting average on the road.

Nava has now hit safely in 14 of 16 PawSox games, after he began the season in Boston hitting .149 (10-for-67) with 2 HR, 2 2B and 3 RBI in 17 games for the Red Sox.