The Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs meet in an interleague series at Fenway Park this weekend, but could it be a preview of things to come?
The two clubs, who kick things off Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET, were given the best odds of reaching the 2017 World Series, and there’s reason to believe that still could happen. Neither the Red Sox nor the Cubs has gotten off to the fastest start this season, but both still have what it takes to make deep postseason runs.
Here are four things that set them apart from the rest of Major League Baseball.
Both have a young core group of players.
When it comes to Red Sox-Cubs, it’s Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Co. against Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the gang. All of Boston and Chicago’s best young players aren’t just the stars of their respective teams, but they’re some of the best players in the league, too. While Bryant was named the National League MVP, Betts lost the American League distinction to Mike Trout. Benintendi is baseball’s No. 1 prospect, and the left fielder currently has the best average out of the Red Sox’s everyday starters at .347. The drive for the Red Sox’s twentysomethings to make their first World Series, combined with the Cubs’ desires to build on their resumes as the defending champions, would make them stiff postseason competition.
Both clubs are relatively healthy.
The Red Sox have been bitten by the injury bug lately, but they came into spring training with an extremely healthy roster. The ailments that have plagued Boston have been mostly minor, too, with center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. already completing a trip to the disabled list and second baseman Dustin Pedroia and third baseman Pablo Sandoval not expected to miss significant time with leg and knee injuries, respectively. Starting pitcher David Price’s elbow injury seems to be the most severe so far, but the Red Sox haven’t announced any setbacks in his rehab process, and they’d certainly rather be going through it now than in September.
As for the Cubs, their roster is at 100 percent with no one on the DL.
Both have a lot of intangibles.
It’s up to you whether to put much stock in intangibles, but in a game as unpredictable as baseball, sometimes they help. While it’s every team’s goal to make it to the postseason, both the Red Sox and Cubs have a little more motivation this season. The Red Sox were far and away one of the best teams in the AL in 2016, but they were unceremoniously swept by the Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series, giving them a new determination to make sure that doesn’t happen again. And the Cubs, of course, are on a quest to protect their first World Series title in 108 years, so they’re not going down without a fight.
Both teams are big on chemistry, too, and neither roster has changed much from last season. Team chemistry is a legitimate intangible, as plenty of past World Series winners have been known for the way they carry themselves in the clubhouse.
They have good standing in their respective divisions.
The best way to get into the playoffs is to win your division, and both teams certainly are capable of doing it. While it’s hard to truly gauge where each team is after just one month of a 162-game season, the Cubs and the Red Sox still are front-runners in the NL Central and AL East, respectively. Even if every team in those two divisions plays to the best of their ability, the Red Sox and Cubs have the best rosters on paper. No one’s saying it’ll be easy, but the baseball season is a marathon, and Boston and Chicago have the endurance to complete it.
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