With much of the attention focused on the Dodgers, Indians and Astros -- and rightfully so -- the Red Sox are in the rare position of laying in the weeds heading into the postseason.But don't discount Boston's quest to win a World Series for the fourth time in the past
With much of the attention focused on the Dodgers, Indians and Astros -- and rightfully so -- the Red Sox are in the rare position of laying in the weeds heading into the postseason.
But don't discount Boston's quest to win a World Series for the fourth time in the past 14 seasons. As the 2013 team proved, you don't have to be the best team on paper to bring home that championship trophy.
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Here's a look at three reasons the 2017 Red Sox can win it all.
1. Sale's pitch
For most of the 2017 season, ace Chris Sale has been everything the Red Sox hoped he'd be in his first year with the club. He notched his first 300-strikeout season and has put up the best overall numbers of any Boston pitcher since Pedro Martinez's glory years of 1999-2000.
But now comes the fun part. Sale has never tasted postseason baseball before. Anyone who has spent even two minutes talking to Sale since his move to the Red Sox knows how eager he is to ptch in the games that count the most.
And don't discount what an elite ace can do for a team in October. If you're looking for examples from the Red Sox, check out what Jonathan Lester (4-1, 1.56 ERA) and Josh Beckett (4-0, 1.20 ERA) did for the championship entries of 2013 and '07, respectively.
Without question, Sale has the talent to put that type of run together. Though Sale has been inconsistent down the stretch, his fastball and slider remain electric, providing reason to believe it's a matter of mislocation and not arm fatigue.
2. Kimbrel in the ninth (and maybe eighth)
Closer Craig Kimbrel's second season with the Red Sox has been one for the ages. He's been machine-like with his dominance, striking out batters as if it's supposed to be routine.
The righty has more than 16 strikeouts per nine innings and close to nine strikeouts per every walk. In other words, it's an accomplishment when a hitter makes contact against Kimbrel.
From June on, Kimbrel has been a three-out pitcher for the most part. However, for the Red Sox to win it all, manager John Farrell will probably have to lean on Kimbrel a little more, much like he did in April and May. If there has been a common ingredient to recent championship teams, it's they've been led by their bullpen. Kimbrel will have to be the impenetrable lynchpin of Boston's relief crew if there's going to be another Duck Boat parade in Boston this fall.
3. Resilience in late innings
One thing that has set the Red Sox apart this season is their grit in the late innings. During the final road trip of the season, in which Boston went 8-1, four of the eight victories included comebacks from three runs or more.
And if a postseason game should go into extra innings, the Red Sox would feel they have the opponent right where they want them. In extra-inning games this season, Boston is a Major League-best 15-3.
Aside from timely hitting from many different players, the main reason the Sox have such a stellar record in extras as that they've been able to put together shutdown relief for several innings at a time. It will again take a collective effort from the 'pen if this October is going to be as successful an endeavor as the Sox want it to be.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.