FAQ: Boston Red Sox

FAQ: Boston Red Sox

Now that the Boston Red Sox are going to the World Series, only a question or two dozen remain about who they are and how they got here.

To fill in the blanks, just the FAQs:

I stopped paying attention when the Cleveland Indians took a 3-1 series lead in the American League Championship Series. I thought for sure the Indians were a lock to go to the World Series. What happened?

So the Red Sox are pretty much regular participants in the World Series?

I don't remember the Red Sox playing in the postseason last year. Did they just barely make it into the playoffs this season?

So what changed that put Boston over the top this year?

For a team that trailed 3-1 in this series, the Red Sox set a bunch of LCS records en route to their comeback, didn't they?

But didn't the Red Sox hit into a ton of double plays?

I seem to remember hearing Josh Beckett's name a few years back. Wasn't he on the Marlins team that beat the Yankees in the World Series in 2003?

Didn't Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis have a monster series?

What about Daisuke Matsuzaka? Didn't the Red Sox hand him some huge contract to convince him to come over from Japan? How'd he do this season?

Where does Curt Schilling fit into Boston's run to the World Series? He's had some pretty impressive October performances over the course of his career. Did that continue this fall?

As the season moves to the World Series, can Jonathan Papelbon continue to be the overpowering closer he's been for the past two years?

OK, so the Red Sox have good pitching -- got that. What about their offense? Who are a few players I should pay attention to in the World Series?

Mike Lowell, really? How'd he emerge as such a strong run producer?

The Red Sox have a few good rookies on offense, too, right?

How much of an advantage does Boston have playing in Fenway Park?

What's this I keep hearing about a Green Monster?

The Rockies also have a unique setting in Colorado with Coors Field. Have the Red Sox ever played there before? How has Boston done in its history against Colorado?

So the Red Sox have their work cut out for them?

I stopped paying attention when the Cleveland Indians took a 3-1 series lead in the American League Championship Series. I thought for sure the Indians were a lock to go to the World Series. What happened?
Well, the Red Sox have shown a few times now that you should never count them out. Boston won 96 games during the regular season, so piecing together a three-game winning streak to close out the ALCS wasn't an impossible feat. In 2004, Boston climbed out of a 3-0 hole to defeat the Yankees in the ALCS. This time around, the Sox took the final three games to clinch their second AL pennant in four seasons, sending the Tribe back to Cleveland without a Series crown for the 59th year in a row.

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So the Red Sox are pretty much regular participants in the World Series?
They're making it seem like that lately, but Boston's recent run is a far cry from previous eras in club history. Prior to 2004, Boston hadn't won a World Series since 1918, despite four other trips to the October finale. The Red Sox have made the playoffs six times in the past 10 seasons, which is the club's best stretch since winning the World Series four times between 1912-18.

I don't remember the Red Sox playing in the postseason last year. Did they just barely make it into the playoffs this season?
Actually, Boston captured the division title in the AL East by two games this year, knocking the Yankees into second place. It was the first time since 1995 that the Sox won their division and the first time since 1997 that New York didn't take the East crown. It was quite a turnaround from last year, when Boston finished third in the division with 86 wins.

So what changed that put Boston over the top this year?
One difference was that Boston's starting rotation had three pitchers with at least 15 wins this year and the club's bullpen was the best in the league. The starting staff was paced by right-hander Josh Beckett, who put himself in the mix for the AL Cy Young Award by going 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA for Boston. The Red Sox also avoided major injuries this year, unlike last year when they lost captain Jason Varitek to knee surgery in August and had a bunch of other core players out at the same time.

For a team that trailed 3-1 in this series, the Red Sox set a bunch of LCS records en route to their comeback, didn't they?
Too numerous to mention, but here are some highlights: most runs scored by a team in an LCS, 51, breaking the record of 45 set by the Yankees in 2004; most RBIs by a team, 48, breaking the Yankees' record of 44; highest batting average by a team in an LCS, .318, eclipsing Atlanta's .309 in 1996; team slugging percentage in a seven-game series, .521, obliterating the .484 set by the Cubs in 2003.

But didn't the Red Sox hit into a ton of double plays?
Sure, but who cares with the way they score runs. They set the LCS record by hitting into 14 twin-killings, obliterating the record of 10 set by the Orioles in 1997. They also have already eclipsed the record for hitting into most double plays in an entire postseason wth 20, passing the 17 St. Louis hit into last year. And Julio Lugo has hit into four, setting the ALCS record and tying Pedro Guerrero, who hit into that many in the 1981 NLCS.

I seem to remember hearing Beckett's name a few years back. Wasn't he on the Marlins team that beat the Yankees in the World Series in 2003?
He sure was, and Beckett picked up the Most Valuable Player Award for that series after sealing the victory with a shutout in Game 6. Beckett maintained his postseason poise this October, going 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA, 26 strikeouts and just one walk over three starts.

Didn't Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis have a monster series?
If not for a guy named Beckett, he would have been the series MVP. Check this list of records Youkilis set or tied: hits (14), tied the record; runs scored (10), set record; batting average in a seven-game series (.500), set record; slugging percentage in a seven-game series (.929), set record; singles in a seven-game series (9), tied record.

What about Daisuke Matsuzaka? Didn't the Red Sox hand him some huge contract to convince him to come over from Japan? How'd he do this season?
Yeah, the Red Sox wound up dishing out roughly $103 million -- including the $51.1 million posting fee to the Seibu Lions -- to add Matsuzaka to their rotation. He had a decent rookie year, going 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA in 32 starts. Dice-K had a rough go of it during his first two postseason starts, but he bounced back to pick up the win in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Indians.

Where does Curt Schilling fit into Boston's run to the World Series? He's had some pretty impressive October performances over the course of his career. Did that continue this fall?
Schilling isn't as overpowering as he was earlier in his career, but he still thrives on the big stage. During Game 6 of the ALCS, he handcuffed the Indians for seven innings to help force a seventh game, improving to 10-2 with a 2.25 ERA in his playoff career. While some pitchers shy away from the spotlight, Schilling embraces it. He's also evolved into more of a finesse pitcher this season, developing more confidence in his changeup and curveball.

You mentioned Boston's dominant bullpen earlier. As the season moves to the World Series, can Jonathan Papelbon continue to be the overpowering closer he's been for the past two years?
Papelbon saved 37 games during the season, but Red Sox manager Teryy Francona still managed to provide ample rest periods for the young closer. That has been paying dividends in October and there's no reason to think it shouldn't continue during the World Series against the Rockies. While other relievers might wear down at this point of the season, Papelbon and his upper 90s heat and nasty splitter have still looked sharp as ever.

OK, so the Red Sox have good pitching -- got that. What about their offense? Who are a few players I should pay attention to in the World Series?
For starters, keep your eye on No. 24, Manny Ramirez. Boston's left fielder was the MVP of the 2004 World Series against St. Louis, and he's been on an absolute tear during the playoffs this year. Hitting in front of him is David Ortiz -- otherwise known as Big Papi. During the season, Ortiz hit .332 and belted 35 homers. Believe it or not, third baseman Mike Lowell led the club with 120 RBIs.

Lowell, really? How'd he emerge as such a strong run producer?
Basically, Lowell is the definition of a professional hitter. He takes what the pitcher gives him, uses the entire field when he hits and stays within himself in the batter's box. Lowell has the look of a player who can just smell an RBI. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he has two of the best run producers in the game on base in front of him all the time.

The Red Sox have a few good rookies on offense, too, right?
Definitely. Boston's second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, just might take home the AL Rookie of the Year honor for his work this past season. He's listed as being 5-foot-9, but that might be with spikes on. Still, Pedroia hit .317 with a pretty big swing for such a small player. Also keep an eye on outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. All he did after being called up in September was hit and score runs. Ellsbury did more of the same after being added to the lineup in the ALCS.

How much of an advantage does Boston have playing in Fenway Park?
Well, the Red Sox went 51-30 at the Fens this season, making them one of just four teams with at least 50 wins in front of their home crowd. Boston's stadium, which opened in 1912, is nestled into a city block in the Back Bay, making for some very unique dimensions. Playing there regularly undoubtedly has its advantages.

What's this I keep hearing about a Green Monster?
That's the nickname for the large, green wall located in left field at Fenway Park. Due to the dimensions of the block the stadium was built on, an unusually high wall was needed to protect people from encountering flying baseballs on Lansdowne Street. The wall is 37 feet high and had seats added on top prior to the 2003 season.

The Rockies also have a unique setting in Colorado with Coors Field. Have the Red Sox ever played there before? How has Boston done in its history against Colorado?
Boston hasn't visited Denver since 2004, and the Sox went 1-2 in that three-game Interleague set. Overall, the Sox are 4-5 in their history against the Rockies, who won two of three games at Fenway Park from June 12-14 this season. In that series, Boston was outscored 20-5 and Schilling and Beckett combined to allowed 12 runs over 10 innings.

So the Red Sox have their work cut out for them?
Well, it sure looks that way, considering that Colorado won 21 out of its past 22 games to earn the right to play in the World Series. Then again, the Red Sox keep showing that you shouldn't count them out.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.