For the Red Sox, remember, September wasn’t about winning. The American League East was effectively sewn up a long, long time ago, which meant the Red Sox’ priority in September was one thing and one thing only: to get their pitchers rested and ready for the playoffs.
So are they?
Of course, none of us can see into the future. Come next Friday, when the Red Sox host Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park, there is every chance they will look like the team that has won a whopping 107 games entering this final weekend of the regular season.
But when Chris Sale uttered the following eight words following Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles, the shock waves rippled throughout New England.
“Obviously,” Sale told reporters, “I’m not where I want to be.”
Well that’s just great.
Now, dare we go from bad to worse, let’s acknowledge the obvious: no one else might be, either. The advantage the Red Sox had over most everyone else in September was in getting their pitching perfectly prepared for the playoffs. The only other team in remotely the same position was the Cleveland Indians, who also had a massive lead over the rest of their division.
So take a look. Here is the performance of the key Indians pitchers over the last two weeks in September …
… and here is how the Red Sox’ key pitchers performed:
Now, do these numbers guarantee anything in October? Of course not. The games start for real next week. But one of the things we have to wonder entering the playoffs is whether the relative inexperience pf Alex Cora and the Red Sox coaching staff has hurt them.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona has a career postseason record of 40-26 (a .606 winning percentage that would translate into 98 wins over a 162-game schedule) to go along with three American League championships and two World Series titles in his career. And as any Red Sox follower would tell you, Francona knows how to get a pitching staff ready for the playoffs.
Now comes the question that Red Sox fans may not want to consider: