The Red Sox open the postseason Friday with an ALDS matchup against the Indians and it’s never too soon to make some playoff predictions. So here are 10 things that will happen this October. Next
David Ortiz will again be an October force ...
Big Papi closed another vintage season (30 homers, 103 RBIs, .959 OPS) with a strong September (.293/.394/.598 for a .992 OPS). So why wouldn’t we expect another memorable October from the Red Sox’ cleanup hitter?
Papi has 12 homers, a .908 OPS in 66 career postseason games, and his personal postseason highlight reel stacks up with just about anyone. The Red Sox are making their first playoff appearance since their brief three-game stay in 2009. It’ll be nice to see the Sox—and Ortiz—playing the games in which the best memories are made once again.
... And so will Carlos Beltran
The Cardinals’ outfielder, 36 and building an intriguing Hall of Fame case (he has a decent shot at 400 homers and 2,500 hits), had another fine season, hitting .296 with 24 homers. He did not end it particularly well, however, hitting just 5 of those homers in the second half and putting up a .633 OPS in September while playing through a wrist injury.
But if he’s healthy, he’s as good a bet as anyone in October. In 34 games and 151 postseason at-bats, he has 14 homers and a ridiculous .363/.470/.782 slash line.
Jake Peavy will deliver in a big spot
No, the Red Sox’ fourth starter doesn’t have a particularly impressive postseason resume. In two career playoff starts, he has a 12.10 ERA. Guess what? We’re dismissing it as an unlikely outcome from a small sample.
One of the Red Sox’ advantages this postseason is the depth of the starting pitching, notably Peavy as the No. 4 starter. In six starts this season with extra rest – something he is getting right now – he is 5-0 with a 3.35 ERA. That’s a pitcher – and a statistic – to believe in.
The Dodgers will sweep the Braves in the first round
Talk about your underrated superstars: Clayton Kershaw became the first Dodgers starter since Sandy Koufax in 1966 to finish a season with a sub-2.00 ERA. He won his third straight ERA title (1.84) and also owned the league’s lowest WHIP for the third straight year (0.915).
Yet sometimes it seems like he gets more notice for being Matthew Stafford’s childhood pal than anything he does on the pitcher’s mound. If he pitches this postseason like he did the past three regular seasons, that will change. He’ll begin by leading the Dodgers past the Braves.
Jose Iglesias will beat the Red Sox with a flare to right field
Or maybe an infield hit. For all of the skepticism – it’s flat-out doubt right here – about his ability to hit major league pitching, he did finish the season with a .303 batting average, which is about 100 points higher than I expected. His knack (or luck) for hitting ‘em where they ain’t sustained all season – he finished with a .356 batting average on balls in play. I’m already braced for the why-can’t-we-get-guys-like-that? nonsense if he somehow gets the Sox in a big spot in the ALCS.
Actually, I take that back about Iglesias
You know why? Because the Tigers aren’t going to get the chance to play the Red Sox. Sure, they look built for the postseason, with a stacked rotation led by Max Scherzer, and a lineup full of familiar names. But Miguel Cabrera wasn’t right in September (one homer, .729 OPS), and it’s reasonable to wonder whether his myriad injuries will limit his effectiveness.
But this isn’t so much about the Tigers as it is the severely underestimated A’s. Their lineup is structured similar to Boston’s, with productive platoons all over the place (did you know Brandon Moss hit 30 homers?), and they allowed just 625 runs as a team en route to 96 wins. This is a very, very good ballclub, something the Tigers are about to discover.
Yasiel Puig will make a blunder that will cost the Dodgers a game
I hope this doesn’t happen. The stodgy guardians of the gate are already on the electric, undisciplined Puig’s case way too often because he doesn’t play the right way, which generally means he plays joyously and without regard for unwritten rules.
Still, the truth is that Puig has made a couple of seasons’ worth of blunders this season, and as he’s cooled off lately (.214 in September, albeit with 6 homers), the temptation may be there for him to try to be even more dynamic at the expense of baseball common sense.
Andrew McCutchen will get the attention he deserves
One of the many cool things about the Pirates making the postseason for the first time since – well, I believe it was either 1992, or since Honus Wagner’s final season, one or the other – is that McCutchen will finally get to play on a national stage. Not only is the soon-to-be-27-year-old center fielder one of the most exciting and talented players in baseball, he’s also one of the most likable. (This is old, but it’s very cool.)
Here’s hoping the wild-card victory was just a start and it’s a long stay in October for McCutchen and the Pirates.
The Championship Series matchups will be ...
Well, I already gave you Red Sox-A’s in the AL, or as I like to think of it, the Ultimate Stephen Drew/Jed Lowrie Showdown.
In the NL, I’m tempted to pick Pittsburgh to go all the way to the World Series, if only because it’s been 110 years since the Sox and Pirates have met in the Fall Classic and a rematch is way overdue. But I just can’t see the Cardinals and Dodgers – two well-rounded ballclubs – getting bounced in the NLDS.
The Red Sox will meet the Dodgers in the World Series
A few weeks ago, I was asked to predict how far the Red Sox would go (I think it was on Globe 10.0). I said they’d lose in the ALCS to the Tigers. Welp, I’m recanting.
The Cabrera situation has me thinking Detroit is headed for a quick exit, and the Red Sox have done nothing but confirm and confirm again that this is a team worth believing in.
So I’m going to go back to another prediction my boss asked me to make at the beginning of the season: What would be your dream World Series matchup? My answer: Red Sox vs. Dodgers, for all the obvious reasons. I never thought it would be a distinct possibility. Now I believe it’s more than that. It’s baseball destiny.
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