The Red Sox season ended in disappointing fashion as the time was swept three games to zero in the American League Division Series by the Cleveland Indians. The team’s vaunted offense failed to produce under the high pressure playoff environment totaling only seven runs over the three games. The Indians proved to be the better team dominating all phases of the game, including base running and fielding. Familiar faces Terry Francona, Coco Crisp, Mike Napoli, and Andrew Miller all were important factors in eliminating their former team.
The Red Sox approached Game 1 of the series with confidence with 21-game winner Rick Porcello taking the mound against Trevor Bauer of the Indians, who was forced to start Game 1 due to injuries to two All-Star pitchers in the Indians’ rotation. However, as is common in October baseball, the game did not follow the expected script. After the Red Sox took a 2-1 lead on a home run by rookie Andrew Benintendi, Cleveland stunned the Sox with three home runs in the home half of the third inning. Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis, and Francisco Lindor each hit solo home runs giving the Indians a 4-2 lead. Porcello would be knocked out of the game in the 5th inning with the Sox facing a 5-3 deficit. Andrew Miller, the Indians’ prized mid-season acquisition kept Boston off the scoreboard for two innings and the remainder of the Indians bullpen held the lead as the Indians won 5-4.
Game 2 featured erstwhile Red Sox ace, David Price. Sporting a 0-8 lifetime record as a starter in the postseason, Price inspired little confidence from Sox fans despite his 217 million dollar contract. Fans skepticism turned out to be well founded as Price did not survive four full innings. He served up a three run home run to Lonnie Chisenhall, the first Chisenhall had hit off of a left handed pitcher all season. Price would be charged with 5 runs allowed and the Red Sox faced a 5-0 deficit that they could not overcome. Indians ace Corey Kluber provided a gritty performance on a gimpy hamstring holding the Red Sox scoreless into the 8th inning. The Sox now headed to Boston in a steep 2-0 hole, hoping the home crowds at Fenway Park could help bring the team back to life.
However, this was not the case as the Indians again jumped out to an early lead in Game 3, played on Monday after Sunday’s scheduled game was rained out. The much maligned Clay Buchholz took the mound for the Sox and after pitching out of jams in the first few innings was touched for two runs in the fourth inning. The Sox narrowed the margin to 2-1, but could not come any closer as Coco Crisp hit a key home run off reliever Drew Pomeranz to widen the margin to 4-1. To their credit, the Sox did not go quietly into the night, closing to within 4-3 on a Hanley Ramirez RBI single in the eighth. However, Indians closer Cody Allen closed the Red Sox out in the 9th getting Travis Shaw to fly out to end the series.
With the series marking the final chapter of the career of David Ortiz, the Red Sox now face an uncertain future. The team must fill the void of their on and off field leader, as well as their most feared batter. The team may attempt to fill the void in house perhaps with the return of Pablo Sandoval, or may enter the free agent market looking to sign a slugger such as the Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion. The team’s coaching staff may also see some change as bench coach Torey Lovullo is expected to be a strong candidate to take a managerial job elsewhere. David Price also must shake off another postseason flop and will be under intense pressure to improve his performance in year two of his massive contract. Despite the uncertainty, the team has a promising young core of Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Yoan Moncada, and Mookie Betts, and looks primed to compete for playoff berths in the near future.