With the ALCS looming in just two days, this article will take a look at five reasons why the Red Sox will win this series.
1. Experience—To have experience or not, that is the question. There is always a debate about whether having playoff experience is important. Without losing to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS on Aaron Boone's now famous game winning home run, this writer doubts the Sox would have been able to come back against the Yanks in the 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox are the reigning World Series champs, and until someone knocks them off, they are the team to beat.
2. Records Don't Matter—The Red Sox proved the regular season series doesn't matter after beating the Angels. Say what you want about the Rays winning the season series and the Sox not winning a game at Tropicana Field, but that isn't going to matter. The Red Sox are loaded with scrappy blue collar players, and they are not going to let the regular season series determine anything in the postseason.
3. Patience—The Red Sox are the most patient offensive team in Major League Baseball. They take it to a whole new level in the playoffs. They will grind down even the best starting pitchers until they crack. The Red Sox hitters do strike out, and pop out just like everyone else; but the Sox protect the plate and usually put the ball in play when they have too, which gives them a chance to make plays. The Red Sox pitchers are also battle tested, and are not easily rattled. When they start getting beat, they slow the game down and grind it out. When Josh Beckett pitched against the Angels in game 3, he clearly didn't have his best stuff. But, he slowed the game down and grinded the Angels hitters as much as they did him. He kept them in the game, even though they lost.
4. Jonathan Papelbon—What is the difference between the Rays bullpen and the Red Sox bullpen? Answer, Jonathan Papelbon. When you have a shut down pitcher the likes of Paps, it puts fear in the other team. This man has 12 straight playoff appearances without allowing a run. Troy Percival was a great closer, about five years ago and may not even be the closer during the series. The Red Sox feel like they are never out of a game, and when you have a guy that can finish games, it gives your team even more confidence. The Sox also like to see Papelbon dance when the team wins a series, so the Rays have that going against them also.
5. Fenway Park and Red Sox Nation—Fenway is a very intimidating place to play. The Red Sox crowds are as rowdy as any you will see in baseball, and they don't need cowbells. The place only holds 39,000 or so and knows when to apply the pressure. The Red Sox feed off the Nation's energy. When your team has players like Papelbon, Pedroia, and Youkilis who are high energy players already, it only helps when you have the best crowd in baseball behind you. No offense to the Rays, but the Red Sox are in the midst of making themselves a dynasty. If Tampa can keep these guys together, they will have a great future. But as Jack Parkman said, and Rube Baker repeated back to him at the end of Major League II, "Mr. Parkman, you're a good ball player, but I want to say, that you're standing on the tracks and the train's is about to come through, bonehead."