The Red Sox just ousted the team with the best record in all baseball from the playoffs. Not bad. While it wasn’t an “easy” series victory, it was convincing. These are some gritty, grind-it-out ball players. Is that style going to work against the relentless Rays? Hope so, but ain’t so sure.
The Sox biggest weakness is their bull pen. You can sort of hide a weak bull pen in a five game series, but no so much in seven games. That means they will need long, quality starts from Dice-K, Beckett, Lester and Wakefield (the announced starters for games one through four respectively). Other than Lester, it is a real crap shoot as to whether or not these guys can go seven or eight strong innings. If the offense were more potent, you could cover up some of the bullpen holes with big leads… that’s not going to happen, especially not against the fine Rays starting pitching.
And I’m not so content with the way Francona has arranged his starters. For Lester to pitch twice, the series will have to go to seven games. It is hard to see the Sox winning this series without two wins from Lester, which means it will have to go seven games for the Sox to win it. That’s just too dicey for me, not with this scrappy Rays team. If they take the Sox to the seventh game, they’re winning it, even with Lester pitching the deciding game.
But, I’m usually wrong about these things. I thought the Sox would lose to the Angels for similar reasons — i.e. the bull pen. Part of the reason they won the ALDS is because of the rest days, which allowed Francona to pitch Papelbon two innings twice. He’s not going to have that luxury in the ALCS, not with seven games in ten days.