Red Sox Focused on Maintaining AL’s Best Record, As Home-Field Advantage in Playoffs Could Be Key

Ryan LavarnwayBOSTON — The Red Sox are a confident team, regardless of the venue. They’ve been particularly tough at Fenway Park, though, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is in their grasps.

The Red Sox enter Sunday’s action with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Athletics for the best record in the American League. While John Farrell will look to give some guys some rest over Boston’s final six games, the skipper also noted before Saturday’s contest that securing home-field advantage is a priority.

“We’re not downplaying the importance of maintaining home-field advantage,” Farrell said Saturday. “We have the ability to control our own destiny in that. We’re setting out as we have for the first 155 games of the season, and that’s to win tonight. We do have a number of things that we have to balance in this, and that’s some individual things we’re trying to manage with some guys, but I think it’s pretty clear in the minds of all here that to maintain the best record would be key.”

Locking down the best record in the AL would ensure that the Red Sox also host the first two games of the ALCS, if they advance past the first round. (Whichever team comes out of the AL will have home-field advantage in the World Series because of the league’s victory in this year’s All-Star Game.)

The Red Sox enter Sunday’s game with a 52-28 home record. It’s the best mark in the AL and the second-best home record in the majors behind the Braves, who are 52-22 at Turner Field. Clearly, the Red Sox would have a big advantage playing in front of a boisterous hometown crowd that will be getting its first taste of playoff action since 2009. In fact, Farrell even noted the importance of Boston’s home-field advantage amid Friday’s champagne-soaked celebration.

“We’ve got seven left. We’ll see where it takes us,” Farrell said Friday, as the Red Sox celebrated their division-clinching win. “I think the biggest thing is secure home-field advantage — however we can — because we thrive on the energy and the atmosphere that’s created in this ballpark. Our guys are extremely confident when we play at home. Not that we’re not on the road, but at home, this is a different field.”

In all likelihood, Jon Lester will take the ball in Game 1 of the ALDS. While he has the look and feel of an ace right now, Lester has been much better at home than on the road this season. The left-hander is 7-1 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 home starts, while he’s 8-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 19 starts away from Fenway Park.

It remains to be seen who will start Game 2 for Boston, but John Lackey is one possibility, and his home/away splits are even more drastic than Lester’s. Lackey is 6-3 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 13 home starts this season. He is 4-9 with a 4.39 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 15 starts on the road.

None of this is to say that the Red Sox, who own a 42-34 road record, can’t win outside of Fenway Park. They’ve had a certain flair for the dramatic while playing in Boston, though, and it could be an X factor in October.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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