The Red Sox have the momentum, the talent and the balance that teams strive for at this time of year, and that's why David Ortiz could end his career with a fourth World Series parade.
All season long, Boston was in contention. But when September started, the Red Sox surged despite a road-dominant schedule.
"When a team is as effective as this team has been on the road late in the season, you know there's something special. So we'll see," said Red Sox owner John Henry. "I feel pretty good. Let's put it this way: Where we are now, I wouldn't want to play us going into the playoffs, because this is a really talented team and really tough."
1. Papi and Pedroia thrive on the big stage
You'd be hard-pressed to find any postseason team that has two players more battle-tested at this time of year than Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, who have five World Series rings between them.
It isn't just that Ortiz and Pedroia are highly-productive players who come through when it matters the most. They are also contagious leaders who know how to keep a team unfazed by the pressurized surroundings that October brings.
Who can forget Ortiz calling a team meeting in the dugout in the middle of Game 4 in the 2013 World Series, an event that seemed to change the momentum in Boston's favor? Pedroia is constantly firing up his teammates in the middle of games.
2. Killer B's provide energy, athleticism
For the young core of the Red Sox, this postseason will be the biggest stage on which they've played. Mookie Betts, the electrifying Americal League Most Valuable Player Award candidate, can win a game countless ways. Jackie Bradley Jr. might be the most gifted center fielder in the game, and he's also developed into a power hitter this season.
Xander Bogaerts did experience postseason baseball in 2013, but he didn't even have enough service time to be considered an official rookie back then. This time, Bogaerts will be a central figure in what the Red Sox are trying to accomplish, and he can win games with his bat, his glove or his legs. Then there is 22-year-old left fielder Andrew Benintendi, who was still at Double-A Portland in late July. Since his promotion to Boston, the left-handed hitter has justified the faith the Red Sox have shown in him, and he's an annoyance in the lower portion of the order to opponents.
3. Pitching is peaking
In the first half, Boston was an offensive juggernaut that carried an underperforming pitching staff. That recipe doesn't work in October, which is why the resurgence of both the Red Sox's rotation and bullpen has been such a relevant storyline. AL Cy Young Award candidate Rick Porcello and veteran lefty David Price give the rotation a solid 1-2 punch. Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz have both rebounded magnificently after brutal starts to their season.
Boston's bullpen looked to be in big trouble in August, but Koji Uehara helped solidify the unit when he returned in September from a right pectoral strain. Craig Kimbrel, aside from a couple of isolated shaky outings, has been dominant since returning from left knee surgery. The addition of Brad Ziegler proved to be a big one. The side-winder has gotten many big outs for manager John Farrell since being acquired in July. Joe Kelly has proven to be a solid reliever after a couple of months in the Minors. Robbie Ross Jr. has been highly underrated from the left side. The Red Sox will go as far as their pitching takes them. If September is an indicator, that could be pretty far.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.