It's a miracle that the Boston Red Sox even won the wild card. They got there on the strength of a 45-25 record in their division. This consisted, in turn, of tied 9-9 season series against both the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, a score of 11-7 against the Toronto Blue Jays, and a very lopsided 16-2 tally against the Baltimore Orioles.
That left them only 50-42 against the rest of Major League Baseball. If you further back out their 9-6 record against National League teams in Interleague play, that left them only 41-36 against the American League West and Central teams. Hardly playoff material.
The Red Sox might still be in contention if they had won the American League East and had drawn the tired Twins, whom they had beaten in the regular season, as their division opponents. But that didn't happen because the New York Yankees won more games against third parties, after a tie in the season series with the Red Sox.
Assuming the latter beat the Twins, their chances of winning the pennant would have depended on who won the resulting New York-Los Angeles division round. Boston might be even money against New York, and probably an underdog, as we have just seen, against Los Angeles.
The Yankees and Angels both have better batting averages than the Red Sox. But the Angels' pitchers somehow do a better job of neutralizing Boston's hitters than the Yankees' pitchers.
Now, it seems like the focus might be the ALCS, because whoever wins this pennant is likely to be a favorite in the World Series over the National League Team, as was the case in 2004 and 2007 when the Red Sox won.
Sometimes, how far you go depends on how far others don't go. In last year's Super Bowl Playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers might have been underdogs if they had faced the Tennessee Titans, who had beaten them in the regular season, for the AFL Conference title.
But the Baltimore Ravens beat the Titans in the division series, and the Steelers later beat the Ravens (whom they had defeated twice in the regular season) for the "pennant." Then they were favorites in the Super Bowl.
Jason Bay (a former Pirate) would understand this.