When John Farrell walked into the Fenway Park media room after Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays – Boston’s fifth defeat in six games – he sounded nothing like a losing manager.

“Being division champions, we’re proud of the work we’ve put in,” Farrell said. “I’ve mentioned a number of times lately I feel like our team is tough. We’ve met a number of challenges along the way, including what we’ve been able to do on the road.”

All true. Boston had three long trips in the final six weeks and went 7-4, 6-3 and 7-3.

So Farrell likes his chances as the Red Sox start their American League Division Series on Thursday night in Cleveland.

“We’ve been successful (on the road) and it will continue to be that way as long as we pitch as we’re capable,” he said. “That’s what gives us a lot of confidence going into this postseason.”

The skipper is confident. Are you, Red Sox fan?


You should be. Boston should beat Cleveland. These talented Red Sox, who ran away from the AL East with an 11-game win streak in September, have raised expectations to a level last seen in 2013. And that year ended with a World Series title.

What about 2016?

Boston should get to the World Series again. (Winning it might depend on if the steamrolling Cubs are the National League champs.)

The Red Sox led the majors this season with 878 runs scored. They have the best 1-2 starters among AL playoff teams in Rick Porcello and David Price. And the bullpen looks improved, save for a hiccup or three by closer Craig Kimbrel.

“We feel like we have a balanced team,” Farrell said, “one that is able to take on the challenge that’s ahead.”

For a first-round opponent, the Red Sox drew the Indians, a team whose pitching staff is riddled with injuries. Two starters are out – Carlos Carrasco (broken right hand) and Danny Salazar (sore right forearm) – and Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber is recovering from a strained right quadriceps muscle.


Even though Cleveland gained home-field advantage by winning one more game than Boston (94 to 93), the Red Sox should come out ahead.

A first-round exit from the playoffs would be difficult to handle – given the talent on the Red Sox.

But an early exit is certainly possible. Here are five areas of concern:

 Boston’s disappearing offense. The Red Sox won eight games this season by double digits, but the deep lineup is starting to spring leaks. Catcher Sandy Leon batted .216 in September. Brock Holt won the third base job by default and hit .239 in September.

The Red Sox lost two games in the final month by 1-0 scores, and another two by scores of 2-1. In their final six games, they averaged fewer than three runs.

Boston, by the way, was 20-24 in one-run games; Cleveland, 28-21.


 Craig Kimbrel. The All-Star had 31 saves, but he can be erratic at times – like now. In his last three outings, he’s allowed five runs, six walks and four hits in two innings.

“He’s not as sharp the last three times out,” Farrell said. “There’s maintenance work that is ongoing.”

Maintenance work? In October?

 Cleveland’s offense. The Indians were second in the AL in runs scored (albeit 101 fewer runs than the Red Sox). Cleveland’s Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana both hit 34 home runs. Napoli can be clutch (see 2013, when his homer for Boston beat the Tigers and Justin Verlander 1-0 in Game 3 of the ALCS).

 The Indians are still winning. Despite losing two starting pitchers, Cleveland won 14 of its last 23, including a three-game sweep of Kansas City to close the season.

 David Price. His postseason troubles have been well publicized: an 0-7 record and 5.26 ERA in eight starts. Some of that has been bad luck (a 2-1 loss to Baltimore in 2014). But the pressure is on Price to reverse that trend.

So, these Red Sox are hardly a guarantee to win.

But that does not lessen the expectations.

“We’re looking forward to Thursday in Cleveland,” Farrell said.

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