Veterans were Red Sox difference-makers

What were the three biggest keys to the Boston Red Sox beating the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series?

The Red Sox's offense could not be stopped

The Red Sox's lineup overwhelmed the Rays' much like it overwhelmed their opponents on the way to 97 regular-season wins.

Red Sox in regular season
vs. potential ALCS opponents

The Red Sox outscored the Rays 25-12, hit .300 with runners in scoring position to Tampa Bay’s .179, and stole six bases to the Rays’ one.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and David Ortiz were a combined 20-for-45 with 13 runs scored and eight RBIs in the series. Each of the three hit .385 or better.

Boston took advantage of every opportunity to get on base and every opportunity to score, capitalizing on not just hits, but defensive miscues and wild pitches.

Victorino tied a record for a single postseason by being hit by four pitches. Rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts came off the bench to draw two big walks and score two key runs in the series-clinching win. (He was only the second reserve player with a multi-walk, multi-run game in the postseason, joining Benny Agbayani of the 1999 Mets).

Myers unable to get going

AL Rookie of the Year candidate Wil Myers had a rough go of it in this series, going 1-for-16, with the lone hit being an infield single in Game 4.

Red Sox pitchers made a concerted effort to repeatedly pitch Myers on the outside edge of the plate and at the bottom of the strike zone. More than two-thirds of the pitches they threw him were on the outer-third or off the outside corner. Fifty-one of the 73 were in the lower half of the zone or below.

There’s good reason for the latter.

Myers hit .393 with nine home runs in at-bats that ended with a pitch in the upper half of the strike zone or above the zone.

His batting average rated best in the majors against that location and his .672 slugging percentage rated sixth-best.

Unsung hero: Craig Breslow

Red Sox lefty reliever Craig Breslow was an integral part of two of Boston’s wins.

Breslow got four vital outs to preserve a 6-4 lead in the sixth and seventh innings of Game 2, then got five more in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings of Game 4.

Craig Breslow

BreslowBreslow had four consecutive strikeouts in the clinching win. In 419 career regular-season games (and two previous postseason games), he struck out four batters only once.

Breslow’s value is in that he’s a lefty who can get right-handed hitters out.

Right-handed hitters went 2-for-10 against Breslow in the series, basically a match for their .208 batting average against him in the regular season.