The last two times the Indians and Red Sox met up in the postseason, things didn’t end well for the Tribe. Flash back to 1999, when the roles were reversed. The Indians came into that ALDS having jut scored 1009 runs on the season (the first and last team to do it since 1951), and were the team to beat throughout most of the 90’s. The Red Sox came in as the underdog Wild Card team, and boasting the number one pitching staff, mainly attributed to Pedro Martinez having one of the greatest seasons ever. The Indians went up 2-0 in that series before the Red Sox beat up a depleted Indians pitching staff, outscoring the Tribe 44-18 over the final three games to come back and take the series.
Move forward to 2007, we all know about this one, the Indians were up three games to one with a chance to clinch a trip to the World Series at home before everything fell apart. As CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona (or Roberto Hernandez, which ever you prefer), you know two guys who combine to win 39 games that season, completely imploded bringing the series to a game seven in Boston. There, Kenny Lofton would be held up at third by Joel Skinner, which prevented the score from being tied. The Tribe would go on to lose game seven by a final of 11-2, being outscored over the final three games of the series by a score of 30-5.
So you can understand why a lot of fans were nervous heading to Boston up 2-0 in the series. We’d seen this story before. The Red Sox had the best offense in baseball by a mile, playing in their home park, and we had Josh Tomlin on the mound. Yes, Josh Tomlin, the guy who had given up 36 home runs on the season.
Maybe this really is the “Year of Cleveland”. With Terry Francona in our dug out this time around, the Indians just out-baseballed the Red Sox. Francona pushed all the right buttons, and his players executed everything perfectly.
The bullpen was the real story of this series, and goes to show just how important the Andrew Miller trade was. Miller ended up going four innings in this series, often coming in to face the middle of the Red Sox order, and fanned 44% of the batters he faced. Miller was often the bridge from the starter to Cody Allen. The Tribe’s ALDS roster consisted of eight relief pitchers, but they only had to use four of them thanks to Miller.
As usual with October baseball, the hero’s come in the most unlikely of forms. Roberto Perez showed everyone why the Indians never even needed Jon Lucroy in the first place. He was the hero of Game 1. In Game 2, Corey Kluber shut down the Red Sox, which wasn’t really surprising, but what was surprising was when Lonnie Chisenhall took David Price deep for a three-run home run. It was his first home run against a lefty all year. In Game 3, Josh Tomlin withstood the Fenway Faithful, as he went five strong innings before handing it over the to bullpen. August deadline acquistion, Coco Crisp had the game’s biggest hit, when he launched a Drew Pomeranz pitch over the Green Monster, to give the Indians a 4-1 lead. Even Tyler Naquin, who had struck out in all of his postseason at-bats, came up with a clutch RBI single.
Sure Cody Allen had us all thinking that Game 4 was inevitable, but the Spirit of Moses Cleveland shown down on the Indians this series. The Indians exercised some demons against the Red Sox, and will almost undoubtedly be underdogs again against Toronto, but this team thrives off people writing them off. I mean how many of you actually thought the Indians would sweep the Red Sox. Okay, put your hands down, because no one thought it would happen. The Red Sox came into the series having scored 101 more runs than the second place team, which was the Indians.
Reports of the pitching staffs demise were greatly exaggerated. Without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar (who combined for a 6.5 WAR in the regular season), and a potentially hobbled Kluber (who could soon be on his way to a second Cy Young in three seasons), this Red Sox team who averaged 5.4 runs per game, were held to 2.3 runs per game in the ALDS. Just remember Cleveland fans, anything can happen in October, except for the Cubs winning a World Series.
— Chris Sladoje (@The_Doje)
Greg M. Cooper / USA Today Sports