In Game Four the Red Sox used another method to win a game, in close low scoring affair, the Rays were eliminated by a score of 3-1and by 3-1 in games. The Red Sox move on to their fifth ALCS in the last eleven years to meet either Oakland or Detroit, who will meet Thursday night in a Game Five in Oakland. Here are some thoughts about Game Four and the upcoming ALCS.
* Jake Peavy showed the world why the Red Sox wanted his arm at the trade deadline ( and also his will and determination). Peavy pitched a strong 5 2/3 allowing only one run on only 74 pitches. He certainly had enough to go another inning or two, but his relief in Craig Breslow was equally outstanding. Breslow mowed down a succession of right handed hitters with stuff down and away. With Peavy as a fourth starter, the Red Sox rotation is as deep if not more than any other remaining team.
* Jeremy Hellickson, the Tampa Bay starter, on the other hand was gone before retiring a hitter in the second. Now this had as much to do with Joe Maddon's lightning fast hook than Hellickson's troubles, but it illustrated an important point for Boston. Twice in the ALDS, the opposing starter was out before 5 innings were complete, and the Sox won both games. For the regular season the Red Sox had a better winning % than any other MLB team when the opposing pitcher leaves the game before finishing 5 innings. The Sox were 38-3, an illustration of not only their patient, potent offense, but how well their own pitchers hold an early lead. If they can do this versus some of the tough pitching ahead, it bodes well for success.
* Xander Bogaerts showed another, more subtle reason why he is going to be a superstar. He is one cool, cool customer. He comes into the game in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter with one out and his team down 1-0, and draws a walk off tough reliever, Jake McGeee, after being down 1-2. He of course advances to third on an Ellsbury hit, and scores the tying run on a wild pitch. Then he leads off the ninth with another base on balls, and scores the insurance run. It is still questionable, if Bogaerts will see more time or start a game. Neither Oakland or Detroit features any lefty starters. However, it is not out of the question, if Middlebrooks struggles at all, that Xander could get a start at third.
* Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino have both been phenomenal at the top of the order. Both getting on base a ton, stealing bases, and running the bases aggressively. If both guys can continue on this pace throughout October, the Sox will win it all. And Jacoby will make himself tens of millions of extra free agent cash this winter.
* Detroit or Oakland?? I have changed my mind about every hour since the regular season wound down on who I would rather see Boston play in the ALCS. As I write this the deciding Game Five in Oakland is about 1 1/2 hours away, and I am still not sure. I lean mostly to wanting Oakland because of Detroit's big name front four rotation and of course Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. But the Tigers seemingly have been sleepwalking ever since the Red Sox waxed then 20-4 in early September at Fenway. And if Cabrera's abdominal injury is as bad as it seems, he is somewhat neutralized.
Of course, the fact these two teams have to play on Thursday is a big advantage for Boston, especially if both clubs go through some pitching tonight. At worst, if it is Detroit, Verlander cannot go until Game Three. Bartolo Colon would be ready for Game One for the A's, but despite past Sox troubles with the fat right hander, I think he is beatable. Just the fact the winner has to fly cross country again, should give the Sox some extra help in Games One and Two.
Maybe, the reason I and many other Sox fans cannot seem to decide who is preferred is it just does not matter. In fact, I think I will make my prediction right now for the ALCS:
Red Sox in 6 games, winning the pennant at Fenway Park over whoever.