By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox may have finished the regular season with far and away the American League’s best offense. But once the calendar switched to October, it was a different story altogether.
Despite missing two of their top starting pitchers, the Cleveland Indians staff silenced the powerful Red Sox lineup in their three-game sweep of the American League Division Series to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2007. The Red Sox scored a paltry seven runs and batted just .214 as a team in the series. As a team, they left 20 runners on base and were just 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position in the three-game sweep.
Boston mounted a late rally in Game 3, cutting the Indians’ lead to 4-3 with a single by Hanley Ramirez in the bottom of the eighth inning. They had the potential winning run on first base in the bottom of the ninth before Travis Shaw flew out to end the ballgame and the series.
“That’s not the way you want to end the season, especially being David [Ortiz’s] last year,” a dejected Shaw told reporters after the game. “It sucks. For so much promise going into this postseason, I thought we were on a pretty good roll. We weren’t about to get it done in Cleveland and tonight, kind of the same thing.
“We fell behind early. Their pitching did a pretty good job the whole series. Like I said, it’s not a good feeling and it sucks.”
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts went 3-for-12 in the series with no extra-base hits and four strikeouts, but scored with an aggressive baserunning play on an Andrew Benintendi double in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 3. The play ultimately did not spark the Red Sox, but Bogaerts gave the Indians pitching staff credit for minimizing the damage.
“Getting on base was the hardest part [of the series],” said Bogaerts. “The [Cleveland] pitching staff did a great job. They pretty much put the ball wherever they wanted. They didn’t make a lot of mistakes [and] they capitalized on the mistakes we made.”
Mookie Betts, who will garner plenty of American League MVP votes after batting .318 with 31 home runs and 113 RBI in the regular season, was just 2-for-10 in the series with one double. He felt the Red Sox could not take advantage of some chances they had to put more runs on the board.
“We had some good opportunities and we hit the ball hard, we just got out,” said Betts. “We can’t control that.”
The Red Sox certainly could have controlled their collective effort as a team in the ALDS. Just about everyone on the team struggled throughout the series, as the starting pitching failed them as well. But the offense was easily the 2016 Red Sox’ biggest strength and was ultimately going to be what carried them if they went on a World Series run. It’s no coincidence that once the offense dried up, so did the Red Sox’ season.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.