With the magic number dropping just about every day for the Red Sox, the postseason is getting closer and closer. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they have the benefit of setting their team up for success in October.
Sometimes, the Red Sox' bullpen looks unhittable. Other times, it squanders a six-run lead against the Royals. Is there any explanation for the inconsistency? How do the relievers get the kinks ironed out before the playoffs?
–Darren, Lincoln, R.I.
I think you have to look at their overall body of work. I am concerned about Manny Delcarmen. He has the look of a guy who is tired and maybe laboring. His stuff is too good to have the results he has had the past few outings. His stuff has all been up and has been either not a strike or hit hard. Hopefully, he will get some rest before the postseason starts. The Red Sox have previously backed guys off for rest purposes in the past, like Hideki Okajima, in efforts to prepare for the playoffs.
That said, I still like the Boston bullpen versus anybody else’s. I am impressed with how Jonathan Papelbon has seemed to be better when it has counted the most down the stretch. Despite Monday night, I think all is well there.
With 13 games to play in the regular season, the Red Sox are five games behind the Yankees in the AL East. Should Terry Francona and Boston shoot for the division title, or should the Red Sox be content with the wild card, give the starters some rest and get the rotation lined up for the postseason?
–Mark, Portland, Maine
I think you try to win every game and then see where the chips fall. I think it is, after qualifying of course, far more important to line up your pitching with added rest. The Red Sox in 2005 vs. Chicago did not have the proper time to line things up, and they were swept. I know the home-versus-road thing is important. The Red Sox' road record does not match up to that of either the Angels or the Yankees. I would just rather have a rested group ready and lined up no matter where they play.
Jacoby Ellsbury is developing into the best leadoff hitter in the game. Is there anyone better than him? If so, who?
–Michelle, New York, N.Y.
I agree he is becoming one of the game's best. In my mind, I believe Ichiro Suzuki is the best right now in the AL. It seems he is always on base. I am also appreciative from afar of what Chone Figgins has done atop the Angels' order. I think all along, the best Red Sox lineup has Ellsbury's speed and ability to change a game at the top. When Jacoby was struggling earlier this year, they dropped him down, but since coming back, he has done everything you could ask and seems to be getting better every day in this role. If he gets on base, everything changes.
Which ace is more likely to get the call in Game 1 of a division series — Josh Beckett or Jon Lester? Does it make a difference who starts the playoff opener?
–Erica, Weston, Mass.
I'm not sure it matters. I think Josh Beckett will. You are really talking about two aces, but it has been Beckett in the past, and I am not sure why they would change the order. They have equal faith in both.
Yes, Josh seemed to go through a rough patch in those four outings, and the number of home runs were surprising, but I think you have to go with what got you there, which is the rotation order that has been there all year. The bigger pressing issue is No. 3 and No. 4 and what order they go there, especially in a short series.
Alex Gonzalez is a great shortstop in the field and a much better hitter than advertised. His pickup has been almost as important as the acquisition of Victor Martinez. What are the chances the Red Sox re-sign Gonzalez in the offseason? Has this been discussed, or will Theo Epstein and Co. wait until the offseason to address this?
–Tom, Arlington, Mass.
My guess is it will wait until the offseason, based on how things have been done for the most part in the past. I have been very loud on this topic. I am a huge Alex Gonzalez fan and was one back in 2006. The Red Sox' lineups are always going to have enough offense, and his defense — even now — is spectacular. The fact that he has elevated his offense since coming over has made this an enormous deal. I am very hopeful that he is able to stay beyond this year.