Baseball’s postseason will be underway in two weeks. This promises to be a wild October, with several teams heading down the stretch believing they can win it all.

While the Cleveland Indians have jumped to the top spot in the American League on the strength of their recent 22-game winning streak, the Houston Astros began the week just 11/2 games back of the Indians. The Boston Red Sox added Chris Sale last winter in order to make them a championship contender. The New York Yankees think they can slug their way to a deep October run, with a rejuvenated pitching staff ready to back up the Baby Bombers.

In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers seem to have righted the ship after an ugly stretch that saw them lose 16 of 17 games. Bryce Harper is taking batting practice as the Washington Nationals gear up for October. The Chicago Cubs are once again playing like the team that won it all last season, and Torey Lovullo’s Arizona Diamondbacks have a better record than the Cubs or Red Sox.

Boston arrived in Baltimore Sunday night with a magic number of 11 to clinch the division. Since the ill-fated September of 2011 (seven wins, 20 losses), we know not to pop the champagne bottles prematurely. Yet it’s looking more and more like John Farrell’s team will nail down its second consecutive AL East title and face either Houston or Cleveland in the first round.

While the priority is clinching the division title, the Red Sox braintrust has some decisions to make before postseason baseball returns to Fenway. With that in mind, here are a few key positional battles to watch over these final two weeks of the season.


We know that Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz will lead the starting staff in the postseason. Each lefty has won 16 games, creating a one-two punch that compares favorably to the best in the game.

You’ll need four starters for a best-of-five first-round series, so the Sox will have to choose two from the trio of Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez and Doug Fister. Fister, despite last week’s rough outing against Oakland, has pitched his way into the discussion with an outstanding late-season run. Porcello is coming off an outing in which he allowed just one unearned run in 71/3 innings and has turned in two strong starts in a row. His road performance (3.43 ERA) has been far superior to his struggles at Fenway (5.30).

Barring a development in the final two weeks, the smart move would be to put Porcello in as the Game 2 starter on the road behind Sale. Pomeranz would start Game 3 at home, and Fister gets Game 4. A tough break for Rodriguez, who could be to the odd man out.


The best development of the weekend was David Price’s two perfect innings of relief work Sunday. Price could be a strong weapon out of a playoff bullpen, but he also takes a job away from a reliever.

Craig Kimbrel, Addison Reed, Joe Kelly and Price have their spots reserved for the playoffs. Fernando Abad and Robby Scott should make it as lefties. That leaves two spots available. It was telling that right-hander Austin Maddox came into Sunday’s game at Tropicana Field. He got out of a jam without giving up a run, and has yet to allow any runs in his brief major league career (121/3 innings). He throws hard and throws strikes, a good combination for the playoffs. He should join the group, as should Brandon Workman – a man Farrell went to three times in the 2013 World Series. That means Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree, two of the most-used relievers this season, would be the tough-luck leftovers.


Farrell should have spots for four players on his bench. One will be a catcher, either Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez, depending on that game’s starter. Another will be Eduardo Nunez, who will probably start each game at a different position. That leaves room for two others. Brock Holt has the most versatility, Chris Young the most experience and Rajai Davis the most speed. A tough call, but I would go with Holt and Davis. Young’s primary value is hitting against left-handed pitching, but he has hit just .189 against lefties this season.

All of this could change over the next two weeks as players get hot or cool off. And before he thinks about any of this, Farrell has to make sure his team fends off the Yankees. Only then will he get down to some of the season’s toughest decisions.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.