When David Ortiz announced his retirement last fall, Boston stirred. Following two consecutive years in last place in the American League East, the clutch hitter’s departure was—and still is—a tough pill to swallow. But the Red Sox have no intention of going out quietly.
Now perched atop the AL East, the Sox have advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Ortiz is not the least of those responsible; he finished the regular season with a .315 batting average and hammered 38 home runs. After three World Series wins with the Sox and a potential fourth, retiring his number should be the least Fenway has to offer Big Papi.
But Ortiz can’t do it alone. It’s a good thing he doesn’t have to.
It’s as if the team has been parading around the East Coast this September in honor of Ortiz’s last season. They apparently could afford to do that. An 11-game win streak in the AL is no easy feat to accomplish, this year especially. But the Sox stomped their way over some of the best teams in baseball. After securing the division early after a bittersweet walk-off loss to the Yankees, Boston breathed a sigh of relief.
Boston led the major league in runs behind this group of young players, who are surely running with Ortiz’s hype with just as much enthusiasm. From Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hitting streak, to Mookie Betts’ 31 home runs in the regular season, there’s no shortage of strength on this team.
They don’t appear to be done however. Ortiz and his young teammates are as fearless as they’ve been all season and are taking that mentality into the postseason with them.
Pit this offense against a faltering Indians rotation and the Divisional Series suddenly seems less daunting. Cleveland is missing two of their top three starting pitchers, one of whom was gunning for the AL Cy Young award. This leaves them with a three-man rotation: Trevor Bauer, who has a 12.91 career ERA against the Red Sox in three games (seven and two-thirds innings), Corey Kluber—still suffering from his groin injury—and a now somewhat-dangerous Josh Tomlin. All three are right hand pitchers.
Boston’s rotation is as strong as it was expected to be at the start of the season, when it was in fact miserable. Rick Porcello, 22-4 in the regular season, is starting game one. Following will be the surging David Price, who had an impressive previous 16 outings in the second half of the regular season (8-3 with a 3.58 ERA). Clay Buchholz will take the third spot, and Eduardo Rodriguez the fourth.
Somewhat surprising is Buchholz’s status as a starting pitcher considering his reputation to blow leads in early innings. Lately he has proven he deserves that spot in the rotation, with several impressive starts in September and after allowing only one hit in his last appearance. Boston fans and media hesitate to put their faith in the 31-year-old, but he certainly deserves credit for his past experience in the postseason which will likely speak for itself against the Indians.
There are holes in the Sox’s game. While starting pitching looks strong going into the ALDS, the bullpen is coming off a string of horrid outings which means a lot more for manager John Farrell to handle—not a good thing. Craig Kimbrel’s blown save against the Yankees should indicate the need to use him sparingly against powerful hitters, but his lofty salary indicates otherwise.
There’s still a lot to accomplish. There always is for a Boston sports team, and it’s never easy. But on the back of the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history, this group will make something happen.
The ALDS starts tonight at 8:08 p.m. on TBS with Boston’s Porcello  facing the Indians’ Bauer.
Bret is a freshman economics major. You can follow Bret on Twitter @Bretrbelden.

Executive Editor