Boston is trying to tap into its worst-to-first formula from 2013 to win its fourth World Series in the past 12 years. There certainly isn’t a hotter team, as the Red Sox’s late-season 11-game winning streak not only has allowed them to pull away in the AL East but also has put them in contention for home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
The mix of veteran leadership and youthful zeal is just one reason this team is so dangerous. Here are five more …
Boston can outslug anyone
Pick an offensive category – any offensive category – and chances are good that the Red Sox rank at the top of the charts. That includes slugging percentage (.467), on-base percentage (.350), batting average (.285) and runs per game (5.52).
The lineup, which features three 100-RBI and three 100-run players, has no weak spot, as even the sometimes-No. 9 hitter (Jackie Bradley Jr.) is an All-Star with 26 homers.
The scores get tighter in October, but it’s hard to imagine that Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, etc., will suddenly slump.
Rick Porcello is an unexpected ace
Porcello has been practically unbeatable, especially at Fenway Park (13-1, 2.88 ERA -- and that lone loss was a 1-0 score). Although he’s been strong since the start of the season, the 22-game winner is finishing stronger than arguably any other starter in the majors, with 12 consecutive starts of at least six innings and three or fewer runs.
Porcello was a major disappointment last season (9-15, 4.92 ERA) but has blossomed into a No. 1 starter in his second season in Boston.
David Price is streaking
The man that Boston paid to be its ace underwhelmed for much of the season, but the left-hander is finishing with a flurry. Aside from a clunker of a no-decision against the Yankees on Sept. 17 that snapped a seven-start winning streak, Price has been in top form with a 2.86 ERA and a strikeout per inning since Aug. 12.
And Price has another shot at redemption -- a chance to silence his critics after yet another inexplicably poor postseason in 2015 raised his career playoff ERA to 5.12.
Their improved bullpen features a lights-out closer
The Red Sox’s relief corps was their biggest flaw for most of the season, but that weakness suddenly became a strength in September. So far this month, Boston’s bullpen leads the majors with a 0.96 ERA and is second in WHIP (0.99). The return of setup man Koji Uehara was a big factor in that, and it helped establish defined roles.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is that Craig Kimbrel has been dominant in the ninth inning, converting 30 of his 32 save chances this season and striking out 82 batters in 51 innings.
The David Ortiz factor
Big Papi got his wish: one more postseason run. Ortiz’s October exploits are well-documented, from the walk-offs in 2004 to the World Series MVP honors in 2013. He’s a .295/.409/.553 hitter with 17 homers and 60 RBI in 82 career postseason games and has the opportunity to add a final chapter to his postseason legacy.
Given the way Ortiz has crushed the ball during the regular season (37 homers and an MLB-best 48 doubles and 1.039 OPS in an MVP-caliber year at age 40), there’s no reason to expect anything less than another clutch performance when the stakes are highest.