2008 Playoff redux
September 22, 2008 2 Comments
With eight games left (seven of them at home), the Red Sox have all but sewn up a playoff berth. The question remains, will the Tampa Rays slip enough for the Sox to take the division? At this point, the Sox would have to outplay them by 3 wins (Tampa has the divisional record advantage, so a tie isn’t good enough). That means if the Rays go 4-5, we have to go 7-1, and that will dictate a lot about the playoffs.
Should the Rays win and face the White Sox in the ALDS, I think their road to the World Series would be a lot easier than if they fall behind Boston. We want our Sox to play Chicago in round 1, not the Angels. But that’s starting to look like a certainty.
Here’s how I see the roster shaking out for the ALDS:
Infielders (5): Jason Varitek, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie, Mike Lowell
Outfielders (4): J.D. Drew/Coco Crisp (depending on health), Mark Kotsay, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay
Bench (5): Kevin Cash, Sean Casey, Alex Cora, Crisp/Jonathan Van Every, Julio Lugo/Dave Ross/Chris Carter
Starters (4): Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield
Relievers (7): Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson, Manny Delcarmen, David Aardsma, Javier Lopez, Mike Timlin
Lowell will be shut down for a few days to rest that bad hip, and Youkilis will play at third in his absence. A lot will depend on the health of Lowell and Drew. It looks like Lowell will be on the roster regardless, but Drew is a big question mark. Should he not be ready, that leaves the outfield reserves being Crisp and Van Every.
For the five game series, you only need three starters, with Wake being the long man/emergency guy. That leaves your bullpen with seven slots. Some have called for Paul Byrd to join the bullpen, but I just can’t see the Sox leaving Timlin off the roster for this new acquisition. He’s still able to get ground balls and has playoff experience out of the pen. If one of the relievers has pain, though, I fully expect him to have a spot, as Byrd throws strikes.
If Lugo is healthy, I can see the Sox giving him the last bench spot as a reserve infielder/pinch runner. If not, it might be valuable to have Ross or Carter to provide pop off the bench.
Bartolo Colon is not a factor, since he left for the Dominican after finding out he would not land a postseason starting role. The team has suspended him without pay, which means they could still bring him back if he suddenly agrees to take a bullpen role and return. Clay Buchholz is also not a factor, as he will play in the Arizona Fall League.
I think we have a very good shot to make it past the Angels, who have been playing above their heads this season. But that series could take a lot out of our guys, making the ALCS (assuming it’s the Rays) a tough matchup. It’s two teams built on pitching and defense, both with outstanding home records, and they will have the home field advantage. To me, they don’t look like the Indians and Rockies of last season, who wilted under the bright playoff lights. We’ll just have to see.