Now that the Red Sox have taken their Divisional Series against the Rays following their 3-1 win Tuesday night, they can turn their focus on the next task at hand: the American League Championship Series, which will begin Saturday (TBA) at Fenway Park.
In what should ultimately benefit the Red Sox, they won’t know their opponent until Thursday night when the Tigers and Athletics will play a deciding Game 5 in Oakland (8:07, TBS) with the winner then coming to Boston.
Both teams will send start pitchers in the pivotal Game 5 with Justin Verlander going for the Tigers and Sonny Gray for the A’s. This plays into the Red Sox’s favor as it’s likely that whichever ace prevails, he won't be available until at least Game 3. The Sox went 3-4 against the Tigers this year, but did take two-of-three in an early September series at Fenway. They split their six games with the A’s.
Detroit’s offense has been struggling of late as prior to Tuesday’s Game 4, they scored runs in just two of the first 27 innings of series. Fortunately for the Tigers, they have possibly the best starting rotation in the playoffs with Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez.
Oakland doesn’t have many big names, particularly on offense, but was still able to finish third in the American League in runs scored per game with 4.73 in the regular season. They too have a solid starting rotation led by Bartolo Colon and then young pitchers on the rise in A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker. No matter who the Sox get come Saturday, they certainly will be put to the test.
With the Red Sox winning in four games, and all their starting pitchers seeing action, their rotation will be lined up perfectly, likely staying the same in Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy for the first four games. Whether they play the Tigers or A’s, their opponent will not get the rotation order they would like, so already the Sox have a slight advantage, and adding in the amount of traveling by their opponent in the days leading up to Saturday’s Game 1.
The Red Sox offense was outstanding at Fenway, scoring 19 runs in the two home games of the series, but scored just eight runs in the two games in Tampa. Their lineup was a bit inconsistent with a few guys having terrific series, and a few others not performing like they are capable of.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and David Ortiz led the way, going a combined 20-for-45 (.444) with nine RBIs. On the other hand, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli went 6-for-31 (.194).
Whether it’s Detroit or Oakland coming to Fenway this weekend, it is sure to be an electrifying atmosphere as the Red Sox continue to surprise the baseball world in their historic turnaround from last year and continue their quest for the franchise’s eighth World Series title.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84