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The Red Sox postseason debrief: how the nightmare sweep happened

A hard-fought season for the Boston Red Sox didn’t come without its fair share of eccentric moments: the encouraging young trio of Xander Boegarts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. making the All Star game, David Ortiz proving he’s still relevant after setting the record for most home runs in a final season and Mookie Betts tying a major league record by hitting five home runs in seven at-bats.
And yet, the energy that got this team to the playoffs wasn’t there when it mattered most. The problem almost seemed to be structural; the most hits in the short ALDS series came from Brock Holt, who went 4-10 and notched a one run homer for his only RBI of the series. The offense was otherwise silenced by the Indians’ surprisingly solid pitching rotation.
Speaking of which, Cleveland’s scouting job was superior and it showed. Fastball slugger Sandy Leon saw 26 percent less fastballs, Bogaerts got 27 percent less of the same pitch and Jackie Bradly Jr. saw the heat 33 percent more. If there’s any explanation for Boston’s offensive collapse, Cleveland’s smart pitching and delicate bullpen management are it.
Although there’s no excuse for Boston’s pitching staff to have performed as poorly as it did, it’s all but expected by now. Despite coming up as one of the strongest rotations in the American League after the All-Star break, the problem was only dormant. The team went 15-54 when scoring less than five runs. That’s a .217 percentage, fourth from worst in the league. Though it’s hard to pin this headache on either the offense or pitching staff alone, it was often times that both were to blame in such scenarios.
Consequently, what is normally considered an acceptable outing for a normal starter (two, three or even four runs given up on occasion) is all of a sudden considered subpar for Boston’s rotation when the offense doesn’t put up runs. To expect each starter to do as well as Rick Porcello has this season is discouraging, and was ultimately what led to the catastrophe that was this postseason disappointment. Porcello’s three-home-run start only set the stage for David Price to steal away, which he most certainly did not do—Price is now 0-8 in playoff attempts. Those numbers out of Price are unacceptable, especially after scoring a $217 million deal. Unacceptable, but unfortunately, expected.
Clay Buchholz put up the most respectable numbers of the series, giving up two earned runs in four innings pitched. As the most experienced postseason pitcher, it’s good to see Buchholz perform even halfway decent. But almost expectedly, a string of bad defensive plays and little offensive production (and poor game management, for what it’s worth) led the Sox to a 5-4 loss at home.
Despite falling short of Ortiz’ hopes, they avoided another last-place season and Papi is surely thankful at least for that. Yet as he stood on the mound and uttered his last words as a Red Sox, the tears streaming down his face spoke for themselves—Ortiz wanted to help make Boston champions one last time.

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