Tag Archives: ALDS

Red Sox vanquished in ALDS, but they’ll be back

The Boston Red Sox should contend once again in 2018

The Houston Astros came from behind, scoring twice in the 8th and once in the 9th inning, then held off a last-ditch rally to down the Boston Red Sox by a 5-4 score on Monday afternoon.

The victory advances Houston into the American League Championship Series for the first time since the 2005 postseason. The defeat in front of more than 37,000 mostly disappointed fans at historic Fenway Park sends the host Red Sox home for the winter.

Over the last decade and a half, those Fenway faithful and the team they love have enjoyed the greatest period of sustained success in franchise history. In those last 15 seasons, the Red Sox have reached the postseason nine times, capturing three World Series titles.

But more importantly for the future of the team is that the prospects for long term future success appears to be just as bright as those recent victorious campaigns.

The Red Sox are blessed with one of the most talented group of young players in Major League Baseball. Half of their projected lineup of position players will spend all of the 2018 season at or below 25 years of age.

That core group and their 2018 season age includes shortstop Xander Bogaerts (24), third baseman Rafael Devers (21), left fielder Andrew Benintendi (23), and right fielder Mookie Betts (25) as everyday starters.

Boston will also be starting a 28-year old Jackie Bradley in his prime. Likely to see the bulk of the catching duties, Christian Vazquez will be just 27 years old.

The club has a couple of young wildcards who are likely to help in some way, at some point in the 2018 season. 24-year old Sam Travis could well push for more time at first base. And it could still all click for Boston’s 26-year old former first round draft pick, catcher Blake Swihart.

Bottom line, there are a ton of good, young, talented position players who will be returning to the Red Sox next season. Those players are likely to continue to get better with age and experience.

On the mound, lefties Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz and righty Rick Porcello will all pitch the entirety of next season at age 29. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will turn just 25 years of age as the season opens.

There will be a group of talented right-handers, all no more than age 30, who will be returning to make up the bulk of the bullpen. These include Matt Barnes (27), Heath Hembree (29), Joe Kelly (29), and 28-year old Carson Smith.

The normally lights-out closer, Craig Kimbrel, will turn 30 years old at the end of May. He is due to become a free agent following the 2018 season, and will be an interesting situation to watch develop.

That young core is likely to continue to be supported by a group of strong veterans, most especially second baseman Dustin Pedroia, DH Hanley Ramirez, and pitcher David Price.

If there is a big question mark, it may be whether or not manager John Farrell will be asked to return following the disappointing playoff defeat. For me, it shouldn’t even be a question. In his five years at the helm in Boston, Farrell has guided the club to a cumulative 432-378 mark. The Red Sox have won three AL East crowns and a World Series under 55-year old. Farrell should definitely be back.

The Boston payroll will continue high, so the opportunity to add high-priced free agents is not likely here. However, there is already plenty of talent. The club is likely to look for little more than a more experienced lefty reliever this off-season. The minor league prospect talent could bring back something to fill any hole that may pop up during the year.

The Boston Red Sox are set to continue their recent string of successful seasons in 2018. Having won three of the last five AL East crowns, they will again be a top contender in the division next year. And with more experience under their belt, the young core should be expected to keep them a leading contender for years to come.

ALDS Prediction: Cleveland Indians over New York Yankees

Progressive Field in Cleveland hosts first two ALDS games

No disrespect meant to the most decorated organization in the history of Major League Baseball, but I think they are in over their heads in their ALDS matchup with the Cleveland Indians.

Let’s begin the preview with who the Yankees are coming into the series. Joe Girardi’s squad took control of the top AL Wildcard spot in September, and even made a run at the Boston Red Sox for the AL East Division crown before falling two games short.

That pushed the Yanks into the AL Wildcard Game. In that contest, held on Tuesday night, the Yankees spotted the Minnesota Twins a 3-0 first inning lead. The Bronx Bombers then bombed away, out-scoring the Twins 8-1 the rest of the way.

The Yankees (91-71) big hitters did the damage in that one-game playoff. Aaron Judge went 2-4 with a monster home run (what else is new), and scored three runs. Gary Sanchez and Brett Gardner each had two hits, with Gardner and Didi Gregorius each blasting a home run.

Those three are going to have to contribute heavily if the Yankees are to have any hope of overcoming the defending AL champion Indians. The Tribe won five of the seven meetings between the two teams this season, and I just don’t see it happening in a playoff series.

Girardi is scheduled to send big trade acquisition Sonny Gray to the mound in the opener. He’ll be followed by veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia in Game Two. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka gets the nod for Game Three on Saturday back at Yankee Stadium.

For the Indians (102-60) and manager Terry Francona, it was a surprise to many to see righty Trevor Bauer get the call for the opener. But Francona and the Tribe have a great deal of trust in Bauer, who started Game One of the ALDS a year ago vs Boston, and who also made two starts in the World Series vs the Chicago Cubs.

He will be followed by ace Corey Kluber in Game Two, and then veteran Carlos Carrasco on Saturday. Bauer and the Tribe pen pitching their way to a first-game victory would be huge, with AL Cy Young contender Kluber going on Friday.

Part of the reason that Francona doesn’t fear sending Bauer out in the opener is confidence in his relief corps. Perhaps no manager in this year’s MLB postseason is more experienced in the “bullpenning” concept.

Francona will turn to righties Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Danny Salazar, and Mike Clevinger. From the left side it would be Danny Olson and the multi-inning weapon Andrew Miller. The regular closer is right-hander Cody Allen.

Girardi has no problem going to a bullpen game either, as he demonstrated in the Wildcard Game. When starter Luis Severino was knocked out by the Twins in the first inning, the Yankees skipper paraded out a quartet of relievers. Over the ensuing 8.2 innings they combined to allow just one run on five hits, and the offense rallied to victory.

That New York relief group includes righties David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green, all of whom went in the Wildcard Game. Right-handers Dellin Betances, Jordan Montgomery, and Adam Warren are also available. From the left side the options are Jaime Garcia and closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Indians lineup features a pair of American League MVP candidates in shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Jose Ramirez.

Talented veteran second baseman Jason Kipnis missed big chunks of the season, playing in just 90 games. But he returned to the lineup in mid-September and hit .321/.394/.536 over his final nine games. He may be set for a big October.

Another huge addition to the Indians lineup since last year has been Edwin Encarnacion. The veteran DH signed away from the Toronto Blue Jays infused Francona’s lineup with 38 homers and 107 RBI, and he has a knack for coming through in the big moments.

The Indians postseason experience a year ago, their variety of offensive threats, and the depth of their pitching staff all add up to a series victory for me. The Yankees have enjoyed a strong season, but they are a little short on talent against this opponent, and I’m calling it a 3-0 sweep.

ALDS Prediction: Houston Astros over Boston Red Sox

One ALDS opens this afternoon with Houston hosting Boston

The Division Series open today in the American League, and each series features a strong AL East contender.

I’m picking both of these “beasts of the east” to go down at the hands of what like slightly more talented opponents.

In one ALDS, the Houston Astros, champions of the AL West, will be facing the Boston Red Sox, champs of the AL East. In the other series, the Cleveland Indians, champions of the AL Central and the defending American League champs, will be taking on the wildcard New York Yankees.

Let’s take the Houston-Boston matchup first. The Astros won 101 games during the regular season, running away with the AL West crown by 21 games.

It was the franchise’ first division title since 2001, and puts them into the postseason for the second time in three years. In 2015, Houston was edged out in a five-game ALDS by the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

The Red Sox went 93-69, and held off the Yankees down the stretch to capture their second consecutive division title, their third in five seasons. The Bosox were swept out of the ALDS a year ago by Cleveland.

Left-handers Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz are scheduled to pitch the first two games in Houston for Red Sox skipper John Farrell. Veteran righty Doug Fister is slated to go on Saturday in Game Three back at Fenway Park in Boston.

For the Astros and manager A.J. Hinch, taking the mound will be trade deadline acquisition Justin Verlander in the opener. The veteran righty will be followed by lefty Dallas Keuchel in Game Two at home.

Hinch has not yet announced his starter for Game Three. That choice will likely come down to veteran Charlie Morton or young righty Lance McCullers.

The Red Sox feature one of the most exciting young lineups combos in baseball. That lineup, with ages in parentheses, includes shortstop Xander Bogaerts (25), third baseman Rafael Devers (21 later this month), left fielder Andrew Benintendi (23), center fielder Jackie Bradley (27), and right fielder Mookie Betts (25 in two days.)

Each of those players is likely to contend for AL All-Star berths and league awards for years to come. Their presence virtually assures that Boston will continue to contend into the next decade.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia and DH Hanley Ramirez bring veteran leadership and experience, as well as continued offensive production as they move towards their mid-30’s.

Farrell won’t hesitate to use normal starters David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, or Rick Porcello out of his bullpen, especially in the first couple of games. Joe Kelly, Addison Reed, and lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel, all righties, could allow Farrell to easily go to a “bullpenning” game strategy.

For Houston, the lineup also features a group of dynamic youngsters. Second baseman Jose Altuve (27), shortstop Carlos Correa (23), third baseman Alex Bregman (23), and center fielder George Springer (28) give the Astros their own core group for years to come.

One reason that I like Houston to win this series is their veterans. Catchers Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, DH Carlos Beltran, and outfielder Cameron Maybin are part of a versatile group that has been through the wars.

The Astros also have one of baseball’s top “X-factor” players in Marwin Gonzalez. The 28-year old switch-hitter can literally play every position on the diamond. He played 19 games at third base, 22 at second, 31 at first, and 38 games at shortstop, as well as 47 games in left field.

On the mound, Hinch can turn to righties Brad Peacock, Joe Musgrove, Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, and closer Ken Giles. From the left side, former starter Francisco Liriano is his lone option. Also, he may opt to use McCullers out of the pen.

The Astros ran away and hid in their division. This was a team assembled with a deep October run in mind. I think they get at least into the middle of the month. The veteran lineup options make a difference for me in predicting Houston to win in four games.