Overcoming postseason jitters
Boston’s expected starting lineup includes five hitters that have never started a postseason game, including Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Sandy Leon, Andrew Benintendi and Holt (or Shaw, depending on which of them starts at third). Xander Bogaerts received a brief taste of October baseball as a rookie on the 2013 World Series title team, but more will be expected of him now that he’s an All-Star starting shortstop.
The youngsters aren’t the only ones with limited postseason experience. Hanley Ramirez has only been to the playoffs twice, in 2013 and 2014 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has a mere 13 postseason games on his resume, but has hit a scorching .356 with a 1.031 OPS in those games. It’s a small sample size, but Ramirez finished this season on a tear with 10 homers and 26 RBI in September, paving the way for him to add to that strong postseason profile.
As for the pitching staff, Price’s playoff struggles have been well documented. He is 1-7 with a 5.46 ERA as a starter in the postseason. In his defense, his bloated ERA is heavily influenced by a seven-run shellacking at the hands of the Red Sox on their path to a title in 2013. Now that he’s on our side he at least won’t have to deal with this lineup.
Porcello only has two postseason starts, plus a few relief appearances, which isn’t much to go on. His 4.41 ERA in the playoffs isn’t encouraging, but then again he’s never had a season anywhere near as the one he produced this year. He’s a different pitcher now, so I’m not concerned about his lack of postseason success.
You never know which version of Buchholz you’re going to get. He was named as the Game 3 starter after posting a 3.22 ERA after the break and allowing two runs or less in each of his last three starts. We’ve seen him be dominant for extended stretches before, but the flip can switch at a moment’s notice. Will he keep rolling through October or will the postseason pressure cause him to unravel again? This is perhaps the biggest question facing the Red Sox in this series.
Rodriguez has been sporadic all season and has never pitched in the playoffs. He was solid down the stretch, racking up 22 strikeouts over his final two starts, but let’s just hope the Red Sox aren’t facing elimination in Game 4 when he takes the mound.
The pressure is more intense under the bright lights of October. This Red Sox team is loaded with players coming off of excellent seasons, but how they perform on the postseason stage will be another story.