In the days leading to the ALDS, we’re asking five people -- our four Red Sox pundits and one reader -- to answer five questions about this surprisingly successful Red Sox team.
Today's question: Which Red Sox player will we be talking about after the ALDS?
• Gordon Edes: Koji Uehara
Uehara How likely is this series to be low scoring? Tampa Bay pitchers held the Sox to 3 runs or fewer a dozen times in their 19 meetings. Sox pitchers held the Rays to 3 runs or fewer 13 times. Five games were decided by one run, three by two runs.
So the ball will almost certainly end up in the hands of closer Koji Uehara multiple times in this series, which is why, for better or worse, he could become the dominant story line of this series. Based on regular-season results, that’s good news for the Sox: Rays hitters had 36 plate appearances against Uehara this season. They went 2 for 34 -- a double by Matt Joyce, a single by Evan Longoria -- and batted .059. He walked 2 and struck out 13. He treated the Rays, in other words, the way he treated everyone else he faced this season. He faltered in the postseason for the Rangers in 2011; that is unlikely to happen here.
• Joe McDonald: John Lackey
Lackey Not only will everyone be talking about John Lackey's pitching performance in the ALDS, the right-hander will make all Red Sox fans forget about his contentious past. When he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, he told me the only thing he wanted to do was stand on the mound in Game 7 of the World Series and win it for Boston. That image has kept him motivated, and even though he's not an everyday player, his pitching performances in the postseason will be unforgettable.
• Tony Lee: Will Middlebrooks
Middlebrooks Call this one a hunch, as Middlebrooks slumped down the stretch. Simply put, he has the power stroke and the streaky nature that can alter series in October if he gets hot at the right time.
When he’s on, Middlebrooks can carry a lineup, as was the case for six straight games in early September in which he was 12 for 25 with four home runs and nine RBIs, or just last week in Colorado, where he hammered two homers and drove in seven in a rout of the Rockies.
If that was any indication of another hot streak, Middlebrooks could be a big factor at the bottom of the lineup. He had eight homers in his last 34 games and has had success against likely Rays Game 2 starter David Price (5 for 13, home run and a double).
• Kyle Brasseur: Quintin Berry
Berry Berry has gone 23 for 23 in stolen base attempts at the major league level, providing the Red Sox with a late inning pinch-run option that always proves valuable in the postseason. Consider that the Rays caught stealing percentage of .217 had them ranked 27th in the league and you have the perfect stage for Berry to steal the show if a close game calls for such. Do I even need to make the obvious Dave Roberts comparison at this point?
• Nick S. from Plymouth, Mass.: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Salty We’re going to be talking about Salty because we won’t need to be talking about the possibility of signing Brian McCann any longer. He’s having the best offensive season of his career and is showing no signs of slowing down. After he hits two home runs in the ALDS we’ll be able to ignore the fact that he only hit 14 this season.
Click HERE to submit your question for consideration for Friday's installment of our #5for5 series.