As the calendar turns to October, so does the baseball calendar to the “second season” -- the postseason. No longer is each game one of 162, now seasons hang on every pitch and in the postseason, experience is everything.
Luckily for Boston, the Red Sox have plenty of experience to rely on when they begin their “second season” Friday at Fenway Park in the ALDS (3:07 p.m., TBS). From their likely playoff roster, the Red Sox players have a combined 248 playoff games and seven World Series titles.
“I think certainly you can’t replace experience,” manager John Farrell said. “We have talent in addition to experience, particularly for those guys that are going to walk to the mound. The starters have been in postseason situations, so the distractions, or the potential distractions, and the environment which they are going to be asked to execute in, they’ve felt it and experienced it before so you’d like to think that is a plus for each of the guys individually. But, at the same time this is a veteran group and they haven’t let distractions take away from their preparation, how they’ve gone out and performed in between the lines during a game. I think we’re all pretty confident with the experience level that is here.”
Starters Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy have a combined 25 playoff games and 134 1/3 innings thrown, led by Lackey’s 78. Aside from Peavy’s 16.62 ERA over 4 1/3 innings, Lester, Lackey and Buchholz have a combined 2.45 ERA spanning 46 1/3 innings. The lineup has a combined 218 games played and five championships, going along with two runner-up finishes. The roster’s understanding of playoff baseball should go a long way come Friday and beyond.
“The playoffs truly are a different game, it truly is,” Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes said. “The rules are the same, the fields are the same, everything, but I mean these guys will see 2-0 counts for the leadoff hitter and the place is going crazy like it’s 2-0 to the lead off hitter in the ninth. It’s the atmosphere, how success and failure is exposed at the highest level.”
Like every team, the Red Sox have some players who don’t have any postseason experience. It’s always brought up what veterans can do for the younger players who don’t have that experience, but at the end of the day there really isn’t much that can be said or done.
“You can’t tame the monster in the playoffs, you definitely have to go through it on your own,” Gomes said. “Unfortunately for players, you don’t have the opportunity to go through it so many times, like ‘next time in the playoffs I am going to do this.’”
The best advice given seems to be to keep the same routine and try to treat it just like another game as much as possible.
“I think guys that succeed in the playoffs don’t do anything different,” Gomes said. “It’s just the positive and the negatives are magnified that much more. After six and a half months of baseball you can’t do anything different.”
In the end, it all comes down to which players can avoid the pressure getting to them and continue to perform like they did all season long. With all the experience this Red Sox team has, they are already a few steps ahead of the league as they begin their pursuit for the eighth World Championship in franchise history.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84