Porcello, Bauer square off when Indians host Red Sox
CLEVELAND -- The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians have come full circle.
On April 5, they played at Progressive Field on Opening Day and six months later, with both teams having won their respective divisions, they will meet in Game 1 in the American League Division Series.
The Indians, with a record of 94-67, won the Central Division by eight games over second-place Detroit. The Red Sox, with a record of 93-69, won the East by four games over second-place Baltimore and Toronto.
Thursday night in Cleveland both teams are 0-0, but there is no shortage of subplots. The biggest one is that Indians manager Terry Francona is the former Boston manager and won two World Series with the Red Sox.
Boston manager John Farrell was the pitching coach for Francona in Boston but is also a former Indians pitcher and farm director. Neither manager, however, wants to make this series about them.
Asked his feelings on facing his former team in the postseason, Francona said, "I would be excited to play anyone, anywhere. This is the playoffs. The way we've played this year, we're a worthy opponent."
Francona, however, says the focus should not be on the managers.
"Both teams accomplished so much to get here, it should be about the players, not about my private feelings, which will remain that," he said.
"Any time your team advances to this point in the season it's a special event," Farrell said. "But how we advance or how we play in this series is going to be dependent upon our players. It's always about the players who take the field and how they go out and execute."
Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15), who will start Game 1 for the Red Sox, has plenty of experience facing the Indians. Porcello spent the first six years of his career pitching for the Tigers, who play the division-rival Indians numerous times each season.
In 22 career starts vs. the Indians Porcello is 10-4 with a 3.35 ERA. In one start against the Indians this year he was 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA.
"Cleveland is a good ballclub," Porcello said. "They're very well balanced. They have some guys that can run, definitely have some power threats, and some really good left-handed hitting, especially at the top of the order."
Cleveland frequently starts a lineup in which the first eight hitters are either left-handed hitters or switch-hitters.
"You've got to be on your game. You've got to execute your pitches," said Porcello.
"I think the bottom line is how our right-handed pitchers attack a lineup that can feature a number of left-handed hitters in it," Farrell said.
Francona is very impressed by Porcello's season.
"His command is off the charts," Francona said. "He's throwing not only strikes, but he's using all four quadrants of the plate, and he's not walking anybody."
Boston won four of the six regular-season games played between the two teams, but the Indians winning the home field advantage for the Division Series was huge. Cleveland was 53-28 at home this year, tying Texas for the best home record in the American League.
"They play exceptionally well at home," Farrell said.
That home success does not extend to Cleveland's Game 1 starter, Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26).
Bauer was 4-6 at Progressive Field, and his ERA is over a run higher at home (4.73) than on the road (3.67). In two appearances, one start, versus Boston this year, Bauer was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA. In three career games, two starts, against the Red Sox he is 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA.
"They have a really good team overall," Bauer said. "Obviously, they scored the most runs, have the best offense and have set all sorts of offensive records this year. Going against that lineup, it's going to be a lot of fun."