I don’t want to say the Indians are reeling, but after two not so successful games against the Tigers, they could use a solid series to help get themselves back on track. Unfortunately, the Indians are faced with the task of traveling to Boston to take on the always difficult Boston Red Sox. For whatever reason, despite their record, the od Sox always find a way to make life difficult for the Indians.
The next four days shouldn’t be any different. Even though the Red Sox struggled mightily in 2012, this year’s version is much better and a more collective unit. Entering play tonight, they find themselves sitting in second place in the AL East behind the New York Yankees with a record of 28-19. That’s quite a departure from last year’s team that struggled from the first pitch of opening day and imploded by mid-May.
So what exactly changed for the Red Sox that has made this year’s team so much better?
Well, for starters, gone is the disease otherwise known as Bobby Valentine. Under his leadership, or lack there of, the Red Sox just couldn’t gel as a cohesive unit. The infighting with each other combined with the constant bickering within the media between the players and Valentine was just too much for anyone to handle. Now, under the leadership of John Farrell, things are significantly better. The veterans respect him and as a result things are back to normal. Or as normal as they can be for Boston.
Second, the Red Sox did a fantastic job of making over their lineup towards the end of last season. They were able to dump malcontents Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford on the Dodgers and the replacements in Boston haven’t missed a beat. The additions of players like Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, and Shane Victorino have helped bring a stability that was desperately lacking from this team.
Third, the Red Sox are pitching out of their minds so far this season, or more specifically, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are pitching out of their minds with the rest of the rotation doing just enough to get by.The results speak for themselves. If they casn keep pitching at the level they have shown thus far through May, the Sox may be in contention of the AL East title all season long.
Finally, the Red Sox are hitting the cover off the ball. As of today, the Rod Sox were the owners of a top 10 offense. They are third in the league in runs scored, second in on base percentage, and sixth in slugging. On top of that, the Sox have also hit .262 collectively as a team. That’s good enough for ninth in all of baseball.
David Ortiz is back to doing David Ortiz type of things at the dish. Will Middlebrooks has established himself as a legitimate major league hitter at the hot corner.Dustin Pedroia has continued to be a run scoring machine at the top of the lineup. All of that, along with the contributions made by other important parts of the lineup, Jacoby Ellsbury, Napoli, Daniel Nava, etc., has the Red Sox sitting pretty among other contenders in the American League.
For the Indians to head into Boston and dominate the Red Sox in the same way we have seen them dominate so many other teams, it will take a total team effort. The offense will need to avoid prolonged slumps, work counts, and be patient at the plate. The pitching will need to be sharp. They can’t afford to let things spiral out of control early. The key will be not reaching for help out of the bullpen early in the series. They need to be able to save their pitching and work from ahead.
- Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.65 ERA/4.43 SIERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (2-4, 4.27/3.52)
- Justin Masterson (7-2, 2.83/3.48) vs. John Lackey (2-4, 3.31/3.29)
- Scott Kazmir (2-2, 6.35/3.68) vs. Jon Lester (6-1, 3.15/3.74)
- Corey Kluber (3-3, 5.19/3.23) vs. Felix Doubront (3-2, 5.61/4.04)
What to Watch for:
Can the Indians offense shake off two lackluster performances against the Tigers and get back on track? They miss Buchholz, but will they be able to solve the riddle that has been Jon Lester?
- Will the Indians pitching rebound? For the first time in more than a month they failed to turn in a quality start in back to back outings.
- Will Justin Masterson be able to continue his run of success? The Red Sox can field a lineup full of mostly lefties and as we have continued to see, Masterson struggles against left handed hitters.
- Can Scott Kazmir and Corey Klubr shake off lackluster performances? Part of the reason for the Indians’ success has been their ability to contain opposing offenses and pitch deep into games.
- This is Terry Francona‘s first time returning to Boston as part of the opposition since his firing back at the end of the 2011 season. How will Boston fans respond? I fully expect a standing ovation, but this is Boston we’re talking about. Anything is in play.
- Nick Swisher is set to return to the Indians lineup of Friday night. His absence these past few games has really been noticeable. It’ll be nice to see him penciled in again in the four-hole and at first base.