To encapsulate the degree to which the Red Sox offense was limited by the Tigers' terrific pitching, consider that Boston's on-base percentage in the American League Championship Series was the same as its batting average during the regular season. Both were .277.
Likewise, the Sox scored two fewer runs per game in the ALCS than they did throughout the course of the year -- yet here they are, headed to the World Series for the third time in 10 seasons, and with a chance to become baseball's first three-time champion of this century. And to hear their general manager explain it, just because the numbers don't reflect it doesn't mean the recipe necessarily changed in the playoffs.
"A lot of things that work in the regular season still work in the postseason," Ben Cherington said. "The numbers may not look the same, but if you can have a quality at-bat in a tough situation, then you can have a quality at-bat in a tough situation. If you can make a defensive play when you need it, you can make a defensive play when you need it. If you can execute a pitch, you can execute a pitch.
"We've seen a lot of that in this series in different spots, even though some guys' numbers in the series were better than others, we've had contributions from just about everyone. We won games in different ways."
They won games with starting pitching, with timely hitting, with good work out of the bullpen, and with generally excellent defense. They did a little bit of a lot of things that help a team win when one area of strength may not be working -- and that bodes well moving forward against a Cardinal team that matched them for the most wins in the majors this season.
"The staff and the players have made sure we're balanced. They've made sure that we're good in the areas that are controllable," Cherington said. "You can control how good you are on the bases, and we've done that. To some extent, you can control how good you are defensively, and we've done that. There are some elements that are out of our control, but we've done a very good job of controlling the things we can control."
Let's look at where those contributions came from:
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||7-for-22 (.318), .878 OPS, 3 R, 3 RBI, 2B, 3B, 4 BB, 6 K, 2 SB: Nobody will ever know how history might’ve been different had Jose Iglesias started a difficult -- though hardly impossible -- double play on the ground ball Ellsbury hit up the middle immediately before Victorino launched his game-winning grand slam. But that’s irrelevant now. What matters is that this was another good series for the center fielder, highlighted by a four hits in Game 4, a .423 OBP, and a go-ahead single early in Game 6. He’s now a .312 hitter in 122 career postseason plate appearances.|
|Shane Victorino,RF||3-for-24 (.125), .484 OPS, 2 R, 5 RBI, 2B, HR, 9 K, SB: Victorino has yet to draw a walk in the postseason, though he was hit by two more pitches in this series. Those now account for six of the 15 times he’s reached base in 45 plate appearances. But like J.D. Drew before him, all anyone will remember about the Red Sox right fielder’s ALCS run is one mighty swing in Game 6.|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||6-for-22 (.273), .703 OPS, R, RBI, 2B, 4 BB, 6 K, SB: His glove uncharacteristically let the Sox down in Game 4, when his failure to start a twin killing breathed life into a Tiger rally that became a big inning, and the Sox never recovered. However, as far as offense goes, the series ended encouragingly for Pedroia, who reached base twice in each of its final three games and had a hit in each.|
|David Ortiz, DH||2-for-22 (.091), .427 OPS, R, 4 RBI, HR, 3 BB, 4 K : If Jhonny Peralta was a capable left fielder, and took away Ortiz’s bloop hit in Detroit, the epic Game 2 grand slam would’ve been his only hit of the series. As it is, it led to his only run, only RBIs, only real contribution in a performance that signified the fourth time in his last five series that the “Greatest Clutch Hitter” in Red Sox history has batted .235 or worse, and failed to crack .700 with his OPS.|
|Mike Napoli, 1B||6-for-20 (.300), 1.033 OPS, 4 R, 2 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR, BB, 11 K: If Uehara had stumbled at any point, Napoli probably would’ve been the ALCS MVP. Take away the bookends -- where he was 0-for-7 with six strikeouts -- and he had six hits in 13 trips, and four of them went for extra bases. As usual, it wasn’t the most consistent performance for the first baseman, though in the end the productivity was there.|
|Daniel Nava, LF||2-for-65 (.333), .762 OPS, BB, 3 K: By the end of the series Nava had lost the starting left fielder’s role to Jonny Gomes, with Farrell citing Gomes’s intangible contributions as a primary factor. But we wonder if the way Detroit pitched Nava in Game 4 had something to do with it. Nava’s greatest strength as a hitter is his ability to be patient, drive up a pitch count, and grind out at-bats. But after using 22 pitches to get through him in his first start, the Tigers threw him only strikes in his second appearance. They attacked him, and forced Nava to swing the bat. He’s capable in that spot, having posted the AL’s eighth-best average this season, but Gomes has a better chance of changing the game with one swing.|
|Jonny Gomes, LF||3-for-16 (.188), .438 OPS, 3 R, 2B, 7 K: His bigger contributions actually came defensively, as he made two nice catches and gunned down Miguel Cabrera at home plate early in Game 5, but he sure made his three hits count. The first was an infield safety that preceded him scoring the walkoff winner in Game 2, then he came within a couple inches of tying Game 6 himself in the seventh inning. Instead his shot to left hit just below the lip of the left-field wall, and he came in to score on Victorino’s salami. If nothing else, his flair for the spotlight should play well on baseball’s biggest stage.|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C||3-for-16 (.188), .375 OPS, 2 RBI, 8 K: It has not been a good postseason for him offensively, as he’s now struck out in 15 of 27 plate appearances, and doesn’t have an extra-base hit since the opener against Tampa Bay. However, like the Tigers, the Cardinals have an all-righty starting rotation in the next round -- so it would be a huge boost for Boston if Saltalamacchia is a presence on the left side. Otherwise, David Ross might see an increased workload.|
|Stephen Drew, SS||1-for-20 (.050), .145 OPS, BB, 10 K: He looks completely ineffective at the plate, swinging right through hittable pitches -- but his contributions can’t be understated on the defensive side. The double play was a huge weapon for Sox pitchers in this series, and Drew is important there, and, frankly, he outplayed the wizard-like Iglesias defensively in this series. That was never more apparent than in the seventh inning of Game 6, when Drew ended the top half with a rangy diving play to prevent a run, then Iglesias booted the fairly routine Ellsbury chance that prolonged a decisive rally.|
|Will Middlebrooks, 3B||1-for-10 (.100), .300 OPS, R, 2B, 5 K: Just as he did during the regular season, he fell into a funk and it cost him his starting role. Xander Bogaerts had a lot to do with that, obviously, but Middlebrooks didn’t make much of a case for himself by being one of five Sox who struck out in at least half of their at-bats in the series. Keep an eye on him in the World Series, though: Particularly under National League rules, he may get chances to hit. And he has a knack for turning a perceived slight into power. The prediction here is that he homers against the Cardinals.|
|Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B||3-for-6 (.500), 1.667 OPS, 4 R, 3 2B, 3 BB, K: In 11 plate appearances this postseason, the 21-year-old rookie now has three doubles, five walks, and has scored seven runs. Not a bad way to splash onto the scene. And when you look at the strike zone plots of the two free passes he drew from Scherzer in Game 6, you’ll see that in both battles he took a pitch that was in the strike zone but called a ball -- including the 3-2 offering in the seventh. But looking at the whole game, you’ll also see that the home plate umpire was inconsistent in that down-and-away corner all night, and generally narrow. That could either be a sign that Bogaerts was aware of that night’s zone, or it’s a sign that the kid has already earned enough respect that even up against the presumptive Cy Young winner he already gets the benefit of the doubt. Either way, it’s darn impressive.|
|David Ross, C||2-for-4 (.500), .600 OPS, 2B, RBI, BB, K: Through three starts and four games, Ross is hitting .333 with a couple of doubles and a .956 OPS in 11 plate appearances. That’s good enough to merit his place in the lineup if Saltalamacchia continues to struggle at the plate and the Sox prefer to err on the side of defense behind it. Controlling the running game is more important against St. Louis than it was against Detroit, so the better thrower might be a better option, especially late in games.|
|Mike Carp, 1B/PH||0-for-5 (.000), 2 K: He got the start at first base in Game 2, but did nothing of substance with that opportunity. With Ortiz joining the mix at that position when the Sox play under NL rules, Carp isn’t likely to start again, but he could make a difference as a pinch-hitter.|
|Quintin Berry, PR||0-for-0, SB: The resident runner did his job -- again -- appearing in one game, and stealing a base. He’s 2-for-2 in that category this postseason, and 4-for-4 in his playoff career.|
|Jon Lester, SP||11.2 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 K: Lester made it eight times in nine career playoff starts that he’s yielded fewer than four earned runs, though the Tigers tested him. He averaged 1.46 walks and hits per inning, but pitched out of trouble well enough to keep the Sox in Game 1, and to win Game 5. Farrell would love to get more length out of Lester in the World Series, though he’d take a replication of these results, too.|
|Clay Buchholz, SP||10.2 IP, 12 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 10 K: His 5.91 ERA was more than three times what his ERA was during the regular season -- though it appears to mostly be a fatigue issue. Only one of the runs Buchholz allowed in the series came during the first five frames, but in the sixth he faced a total of nine batters over two appearances, allowing six hits, a walk, and six runs. Farrell should have the hook in hand by that point in his next outing.|
|John Lackey, SP||6.2 IP, 4 H, 8 K: Going up against Justin Verlander with the series tied at a game apiece, he delivered his signature moment as a Red Sox. It’s as simple as that.|
|Jake Peavy, SP||3 IP, 5 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, K: It might’ve been different had Pedroia started the aforementioned double play in the second inning. But a veteran like Peavy has to find a way to pitch around predicaments like that, so he’s hardly absolved from blame. He did little to limit the damage, and Detroit made him pay for it.|
|Ryan Dempster, SP||IP, H: He worked a scoreless inning in Game 4, and he’s now thrown just 18 pitches since the end of the regular season. That considered, if he was asked to come in for long relieve, you wonder how long he’d be able to go.|
|Brandon Workman, RP||4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 K: The righty was good in the series, making three appearances: he held the deficit in check during a scoreless inning in Game 2; he threw two innings after Peavy bombed in Game 4; then he got five outs, starting by stranding two inherited runners, in Game 6. Each time he was in by the sixth, so the Sox may not trust him later, but in big spots in the earlier middle innings, he is likely to be called upon.|
|Craig Breslow, RP||3.1 IP, H, 4 BB, 2 K: He allowed only one hit over four appearances, but his four free passes are a little bit concerning. He also walked five over 12 innings in September, and with Morales and Doubront the other options the Sox could really use at least one of their lefties to be reliable as a strikethrower.|
|Junichi Tazawa, RP||2.2 IP, ER, 4 H, K: The impression of Tazawa in the series is more positive than his numbers -- including a 1.5 WHIP -- because of the work he did in helping to handle Miguel Cabrera. The Sox felt they needed a power righty who can locate to handle the triple crown winner, and Tazawa was exactly that.|
|Franklin Morales, RP||1 IP, 2 H, BB: Get this: Morales’s ERA for the series was 0.00. That’s right. He may have walked Prince Fielder on four pitches after replacing Buchholz in Game 6, then surrendered a missile of a single to Victor Martinez before getting yanked, but Workman cleaned up the mess (thanks to some bad Tiger baserunning) and so Morales’ shutout inning in Game 4 is the only thing that really shows up on his personal stat line.|
|Koji Uehara, RP||6 IP, 4 H, 9 K: Winning one game and saving three others, Koji was just as expected. That a 0.00 ERA, a 0.67 WHIP, a 14.5 rate of strikeouts per nine innings, and an infinite strikeout-to-walk ratio has become the expectation tells you how good he has been this year. And why he was the ALCS MVP.|
The author is solely responsible for the content.