Red Sox Postseason: 5 keys to winning Game 1 of the ALDS

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale /

What do the Boston Red Sox need to do to beat the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS to take a series lead? Here are five keys to the game.

At 7:32 tonight, the Boston Red Sox will begin their playoff series against the New York Yankees.

The pitching match up will be Chris Sale against J.A Happ. The Red Sox must win Game 1 to prevent another early exit. The Yankees are no pushover and the Red Sox will have to play good baseball to defeat them.

Here are the 5 keys for tonight’s game.

#1:  Work J.A Happ’s pitch count

There is no denying, Happ has had the Red Sox number this year. His ERA against the Red Sox this season is 1.99 and hitters have just a .564 OPS against him, despite the two memorable grand slams that Mookie Betts and Steve Pearce hit.

Both Xander Bogaerts and Betts have seen him well, with Betts having a .958 OPS against him and Bogaerts an .804 OPS. Pearce has likely seen him the best, sporting a 1.571 OPS against him, but that’s the result of homering once the four times he faced him this season.

Getting him out early could be huge. In Game 1, if the Yankees bullpen is forced to throw a lot, it could have a major effect later in the series.

#2:  Pitchers need to keep the ball down, hit spots when throwing up

Everyone knows the Yankees hit a lot of home runs. They hit 267 this season, a major league record, and that was not a product of playing on a field with shorter dimensions, as you saw in the Wild Card game with Aaron Judge hitting a 427 foot home run and Giancarlo Stanton later hitting one 443.

If the Red Sox want to keep the Yankees offense in check, they cannot miss up. When throwing up, as Sale likes to do, he needs to hit his spots. If pitchers make mistakes, the Yankees will make them pay for it. Sale has pitched well against the Yankees this year, but the playoffs are a different beast.

#3: Chris Sale working deep into the game

Going into the playoffs, the bullpen is not one of the Red Sox strengths. Because of this, the Red Sox will need good starting pitching tonight if they want to win the series. The last thing they want to do is burn out an already weak bullpen in Game 1. If Sale can go 7 or 8, Alex Cora can get the ball to one of his more trustworthy guys like Craig Kimbrel or Matt Barnes.

#4: Take an early lead

The longer this game stays tied, the more it works into the Yankees’ favor with the bullpen they have. The Red Sox need to strike early and stay ahead, putting as little pressure on the team as possible.

Despite the Sox being able to rally against the Yankees’ bullpen earlier in the year, it is never a given with how talented their bullpen is, and is not a bullpen you want to face when trailing, regardless of past success. There is a good chance the starting pitcher will likely be the worst pitcher the Red Sox see each game, unless there is a blowout and the Yankees use a mop up guy.

#5: Continue to apply pressure all game

If the Red Sox take an early lead, they must continue to apply pressure. A 1-3 run lead is not safe against the Yankees, and a 4 run lead may not be either. With the way they hit the long ball it is imperative the Red Sox add runs throughout the game.

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This also goes for if they are losing. If they are down a couple runs, they have to continue to put together solid at bats and not let the Yankees break the game open.