The Red Sox will go to the playoffs as a favorite because the postseason necessities are in their clubhouse.
John Lester’s start against the Indians last week is an even more favorable sign for the Sox. He gave up only one run on two hits in six innings pitched. As the third starter in the postseason, that is one good warmup.
Lester is joined by Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka as the three distinct reasons the Sox will be tough.
All three can get strikeouts and strikeouts get pitchers out of jams and big innings. All three can get to the setup man and that shortens games and the need to use bullpen arms.
Those are all factors that teams winning in the postseason use to gain an edge.
Jonathan Papelbon is second in the AL in saves, and in tight playoff games, a quality closer is essential.
Defense is vital in October. With Jacoby Ellsbury/Coco Crisp in center field, Dustin Pedroia at second, Jed Lowrie/Alex Cora at short and Jason Varitek behind the plate, the up-the-middle leather is solid.
Varitek’s experience in these games will be vital to establishing a game plan for each starter that includes defensive positioning. There is probably no other catcher who spends as much time in such preparation and does so all season.
Go through these categories with the Angels and you find the same strengths.
Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and John Lackey are tough. Santana is in the top 10 of the pitching triple crown categories: wins, ERA and strikeouts.
The world’s leader in saves, Francisco Rodriguez, has set the new single-season number for saves, but many of them have been seat-squirmers for the Angels. He pitches with runners on base, and that becomes a much more intense burden in the postseason.
What Rodriguez does have in his favor is a season of closing game after game decided by one or two runs. That is playoff baseball.
Neither the Twins nor White Sox have the complete postseason makeup of the Angels and Sox. That’s why the matchup for the division series matters.
Heading to the postseason, congratulations to Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who will go to the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season as a manager, one shy of the major league record held by Atlanta’s Bobby Cox.
The Twins have made one great run that comes down to today when Detroit visits Chicago for a makeup game. If the White Sox (87-74) win, they’ll host the Twins on Tuesday in a one-game playoff to determine the division title and the first-round opponent for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Last week the Twins overcame a five-run deficit to beat the White Sox and became the first team ever to overcome a deficit of that much this late in the season to take over first place.
The Twins are the fourth team to sweep a series from the team in front of them with the division lead this late in the year as they trailed the White Sox by 2½ games before the three-game sweep.
Maybe the Twins will be a team to stay away from if they can just get to the prom.