Four teams remain, but only one will get to represent the American League in the World Series. Now that the AL Wild Card has been decided, it is time to begin the ALDS. Two division champions will face off in a five game series to advance one step closer to the Fall Classic. The AL East Champion Boston Red Sox take the road against the AL Central Champion Cleveland Indians. Both teams have earned their spot, and now they must prove they have what it takes to move on. The road to the ALCS starts now, and each team has a few crucial pieces that could be difference makers this October.
Indians Key Players
RHP Corey Kluber
Corey Kluber led his team in wins, ERA, and strikeouts during the 2016 season. He must continue his ways to lead the AL’s second-best pitching staff throughout the postseason. Kluber put up solid numbers this season with an 18-9 record, an ERA of 3.14, and 227 strikeouts in 215 innings pitched. The Indians’ pitching staff has led them throughout this season, winning the AL Central and setting them up well to make a run through the American League. Pitching is crucial in the postseason, and Kluber will be a key against the Red Sox in a very important Game Two. Facing the solid lineup that Boston will inevitably send to the plate, Kluber will be a major piece in deciding whether Cleveland will advance to the ALCS.
RHP Trevor Bauer
The young right-handed pitcher will be thrown into the crossfire against a high-powered Red Sox lineup in Game One. Bauer had an impressive season for the Indians, and he looks to continue that on Thursday night. This season, he went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 190 innings pitched. If both Bauer and Kluber can live up to their potential, the Indians could jump out to a early 2-0 series lead and set themselves up to move on. However, Bauer must settle into his role and not let the spotlight get too bright for him. He has struggled against the Red Sox in his career, with a 12.91 ERA in seven and two-third innings.
3B Jose Ramirez
Jose Ramirez must be the spark for the Indians’ offense if they want to make it through to the ALCS. Despite Cleveland’s solid pitching staff, Boston will likely score their fair share of runs. The Indians must combat that by scoring plenty of their own. In order to do so, Ramirez must continue his solid season and perform for the Tribe in this series. This season, Ramirez batted .312 with 11 home runs and 76 RBI. Although he doesn’t have game-changing power, getting on base will be critical to helping the Indians manufacture runs. In the postseason every game is big and every run matters. Ramirez has proven this season he can drive in runs when it matter most. If this trend continues, big things await the Cleveland Indians.
Red Sox Key Players
LHP David Price
David Price has the ability to be one of the better pitchers in all of Major League Baseball. However, when the spotlight is brightest, Price seems to dwindle. If the Red Sox want to win this series, their pitching staff needs to shine. Pitching wins games in the postseason and for the Red Sox, it starts with Price. In his career, Price has a 2-7 record with an ERA of 5.12 and a WHIP of 1.17 in the postseason. Price needs to lead this staff alongside Rick Porcello throughout the postseason, and to do so, he must overcome his woes. Does he have what it takes to make this happen?
RF Mookie Betts
The player that many people have already anointed the 2016 AL MVP, Mookie Betts, is a critical piece to the Red Sox this postseason. Betts had an outstanding year at the plate this season, batting .318 with 31 home runs and 113 RBI. He also had only one error in 157 games this season, making him a crucial defensive piece for Boston. Can his bat help lead the Red Sox past the Indians’ solid pitching staff? Only time will tell, but Betts needs to continue his success if the Red Sox want to move forward in this series.
DH David Ortiz
David Ortiz may be the most important piece to achieving anything of substance this postseason for Boston. There is nothing that would mean more to Ortiz or the city of Boston than another championship in his farewell season. Ortiz knows what it takes to come up clutch in the postseason. If he can continue to do so, he could lead the Red Sox through the playoffs. This season, Ortiz batted .315 with 38 home runs and 127 RBI. This was nothing short of a great season for the 40 year old, and he could be the difference in this series.