BoSox's best arms, biggest bats in postseason so far
Jacoby Ellsbury has swung a sure and steady stick for the
Red Sox in the postseason (Rick Osentoski/USA Today)
With Game One of the 2013 World Series just 24 hours away, let’s take a quick look at the best arms and biggest bats of the postseason to date.
1. Koji Uehara: The undisputed, galvanizing high-five force in the back end of the bullpen, Uehara (4-1, 1.09 ERA, 21 saves in the regular season) has been the hands-down all-star of the Sox pitching staff in both the Division and League Championship Series.
Despite getting tagged with the loss in Game Three of the Division Series, Uehara still picked up a pair of saves, pitching three innings of relief and allowing only one run on a homer while striking out four and holding batters to a .100 average. The 38-year-old righty was then deservedly tabbed as MVP of the League Series, going 1-0 with three saves as he struck out nine and held Detroit hitless over six innings of work in five games.
2. Jon Lester: The lefthander (15-8, 3.75 ERA in the regular season) reclaimed his “ace” designation in the playoffs this season, going 1-0 in the division series against the Rays, pitching 7.2 innings and giving up two runs on three hits while striking out seven for a 2.35 ERA. He retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced in Game One before turning over the ball to the bullpen.
Lester then went 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA against Detroit in the LCS. He was a hard-luck loser in Game One of the League series despite pitching 6.1 innings and giving up only one run on six hits while striking out four, but picked up the win in Game Five, surrendering two runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out three. He entered Game Five with a 1.88 ERA in five postseason road appearances and 2.24 in eight playoff starts for Boston overall — the lowest career mark for a Boston southpaw with a minimum of 30 innings pitched.
3. John Lackey: Lackey, who pitched far better than his 10-13 regular-season record suggests, was a bit shaky in his Game Two start against the Rays in the Divisional Series — giving up four runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out half a dozen — but still outlasted David Price to pick up his first postseason win since 2009, throwing 62 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
Lackey was a horse in his one League series start against Detroit, outdueling Justin Verlander over 6.2 innings, allowing no runs on only four hits and striking out a postseason-high eight to improve to 2-0 in the playoffs, lower his ERA to 3.00 and earn John Farrell’s vote as the Game Two starter in the World Series Thursday night.
4. The bullpen: aside from Franklin Morales, the Sox bullpen has been the very definition of Boston Strong in the playoffs. Craig Breslow has led the charge, going 1-0 and striking out six while allowing only three hits and no runs in seven innings of work in seven games, Junichi Tazawa has seen action in five innings over eight games, allowing only one run on five hits while striking out three in key spots and Brandon Workman, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster have combined to toss 9.2 innings of scoreless relief, striking out six.
When it comes to the Boston offence, there’s been a distinct — and often troubling — difference between the steady and the clutch. While Sox hitters clocked a .286 average in the Division Series, that total dipped to .202 in the League Series.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury: Heading into free agency in the offseason, Ells couldn’t have picked a better time to raise the stakes for potential suitors. Ellsbury has been the very definition of dependable in the postseason for Boston, putting up a .400 average at the plate with three doubles, one triple, five RBI, five walks and 10 runs scored while also swiping six bases and posting an OPS of .992.
2. Dustin Pedroia: In the Division and League series combined, the Muddy Chicken and grit-and-guts of the Sox is hitting .256 with two doubles, six RBI and four walks.
3. The Bit Players: rookie Xander Bogaerts, who broke Babe Ruth’s 1916 record as the youngest player ever to suit up for the Sox in the postseason at the age of 21, is hitting .500 over six games with three doubles, five walks and seven runs scored and is flashing a gaudy 1.727 OPS. David Ross, in four games, is hitting .333 with two doubles, an RBI and a walk for an OPS of .956.
While there was a dearth of consistent hitting in the postseason aside from Ellsbury, there was no shortage of dramatic, against-all-odds clutch performers for the Sox in the League Series against Detroit.
Cue David Ortiz’s game-tying grand slam and Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s game-winning single in Game Two. Mike Napoli’s solo homer off Justin Verlander in Game Three. Shane Victorino’s eventual game-winning grand slam into the Green Monster seats in Game Six.
The Most Improved Award:
This one clearly goes to Mike Napoli, who was a woeful 2 for 13 with one RBI and four Ks in the divisional series, and then 0 for 11 to start off the championship series.
After he teed off on Justin Verlander in Game Three, however, it was a whole new Napoli. He finished the LCS hitting .300 with two doubles, two solo homers — including a 460-foot bomb off Anibal Sanchez in Game Five — and four runs scored, including a crucial game-winning run off a Sanchez wild pitch in Game Five.