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How are the Boston Red Sox on the Verge of the World Series?

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The Red Sox are a win away from the World Series, but

How are the Boston Red Sox on the Verge of the World Series?

Through the first three games of the American League Championship Series, Boston Red Sox batters struck out 43 times in just 95 plate appearances. Almost half of their at bats ended in Ks over that stretch. All three starters for the Detroit Tigers racked up over 10 strikeouts in their starts. After 15 innings in games 1 and 2, the Red Sox had tallied just one hit. 

Yet somehow after those three games, the Boston led the ALCS 2-1. After dropping Game 4 to Detroit, Boston bounced back last night for a 4-3 win to move within a game of the World Series. How could a team that struggled so mightily at the plate for practically the first three games of the series be a win away from clinching this series?

Well, the bats have picked up these past two games. They tallied 12 hits in the Game 4 loss (one less than their total in games 1-3) and another 10 in Game 5. Better recognition of Detroit's starters is coming into play as they were able to knock Anibal Sanchez around last night.

But the biggest catalyst for the Red Sox in this series has been their pitching, specifically the work out of the bullpen. In five games, the Red Sox bullpen has pitched 18 innings and given up just one run. That's a 0.50 ERA in the equivalent of two starts. And they only gave up that first run last night. The Red Sox have been able to shorten games due to fantastic work by relievers like Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, and closer Koji Uehara. The 38-year-old Uehara has been particularly effective for Boston, especially due to his ability to come in for saves of more than an inning. Manager John Farrell hasn't hesitated to bring in Uehara for 4 or even 5 outs when he needs him, and like Mariano Rivera in year's past for the Yankees, Uehara is a major weapon because of his relentless strike-throwing.

The starters should receive plenty of credit as well. John Lackey went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander in a Game 3, matching Verlander's 8 IP/10 K/4 H/1 BB line with 6.2 IP/8 K/4 H and 0 BB. While Jon Lester didn't have his plus stuff, he pitched well enough to put Boston in a position to win last night. The starters also haven't had to be as great because of how strong the bullpen is and how much shorter those relievers can make the game.

Heading into the series, plenty of discussion concerning difference-makers revolved around the obvious names: Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz, Prince Fielder, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Max Scherzer, etc. And those guys are coming through with memorable contributions: Ortiz's grand slam, Scherzer's brilliance in the Game 2 loss, Napoli's home run off of Verlander in Game 3. But the real difference-makers have come out of the bullpen, namely Boston's.

And because of that, the Red Sox head into tomorrow night's Game 6 with a chance to win this series.

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