The View From Pluto: Three Reasons Why The Underdog Indians Can Beat Powerhouse Boston
The Indians are considered heavy underdogs in their first playoff series since 2007. The Tribe faces the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field tomorrow to begin the American League Division Series. And these two teams have a lot of history. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says, at least on paper, the Indians are at a real disadvantage, especially with all their injuries.
The Indians host the Boston Red Sox Thursday at 8 p.m. at Progressive Field.
On paper, it's a mismatch. Fangraphs gives Boston a 60.2 percent chance of winning the best-of-five series against the Tribe.
"They draft well, develop well and they spend money to bring in some free agents," Pluto says. "Nobody would ever say that about the Indians. They have drafted well and developed some nice players. But nobody’s going to say they spend a lot of money. Nobody’s going to say they’re buying former Cy Young winners. Nobody’s going to say they have a high payroll."
Still, Pluto says the Indians have few things going for them that may give them an edge.
1. A better record
The Indians finished the regular season with a 94-67 record, fueled by sweeping the Kansas City Royals in the final series of the season. That's one game better than Boston, which finished 93-69. The Red Sox also lost five of their last six games to finish the season.
“They’ve played six months of baseball; this isn’t some fluke thing or somebody had a good month. After 161 games for the Indians and 162 for Boston, the Indians still won one more game!"
This season the Red Sox averaged 5.42 runs per game, which was the best in baseball. But, the Indians weren't far behind, averaging 4.83 runs per game, fourth highest in baseball overall.
"That should tell the experts that you can look at all this stuff on paper but something happened strange with the Indians all year. Sometimes things do defy logic," Pluto says.
2. Home field advantage
The Indians, despite injuries to several key players, were able to secure home field advantage for the American League Division Series by finishing with a better record than Boston. And Pluto says that's key for the Indians to have a chance to beat the Sox.
"Bad things happen at Fenway Park. In 2007, where the Indians were up 3-1 in the second round of the playoffs, they faced Game 5 in Cleveland. C.C .Sabathia started that day didn’t pitch particularly well and they didn’t hit. They lost. Then, games six and seven shifted back to Boston. The Indians lost 12-2 and then 11-2 to be eliminated from the postseason."
The Indians tied with the Texas Rangers with the best home record in the American League, with both teams going 53-28 in their own parks.
"The nice thing about baseball in October, it builds from game to game," Pluto says. "It’s not like football where it’s one game and it’s over. This is a real series and in the end, the better team is going to win."
3. Manager Terry Francona
Pluto says the Indians have a winner in manager Terry Francona. "He has extensive playoff experience. I do think it matters," Pluto says. "This is his fourth year here and his fourth winning season in a row."
Francona still has a lot of ties to Boston. He was the manager there from 2004-2011.
"Whenever Terry Francona goes back to Fenway Park it’s very emotional for him. Because he did win two World Series there. But his last year there did end very badly."
The current Red Sox manager is John Farrell. He was Francona's pitching coach in Boston. He was also a pitcher and an assistant general manager for the Indians.
"A year ago, Farrell was diagnosed with cancer. The Indians happened to be in town that day. And Francona went to Farrell’s first treatments. They’re close.
I could tell you this, they all want to beat the Red Sox, but no one wants to beat the Red Sox more than Terry Francona," Pluto says.