CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians were the most prolific base-stealing team in the American League throughout the regular season.
And after stealing 134 bases, led by Rajai Davis’ league-leading total of 43, the Indians show no signs of slowing down or dialing back their aggressiveness on the base paths against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series, which gets underway tonight at Progressive Field.
“One of the things that makes them so difficult is the combination of the hitters that they have and how patient they are, really good feel for the strike zone, and then, their ability to steal bags,” said Rick Porcello, Boston’s Game 1 starter.
“You could find yourself worrying about the running game, and then, put them into an advantage count and two pitches without even thinking about it because they're so disciplined and they have the speed combination.
“That's something that over the past couple of years, you've seen teams with that attack and it's been very successful. So we definitely have to be mindful of the running game and find that balance of controlling those runs and not letting that compromise my pitch execution.”
While Davis has been wreaking havoc on the bases, the Indians’ heavy hitters have been coming up with clutch hits all season long.
Along with third baseman Jose Ramirez regularly delivering in the clutch, first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana smacked 151 hits, including 31 doubles and a career-best 34 home runs. Also, Santana had a 1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, drawing 99 free passes on the season.
In his career, Santana has collected 12 hits in 41 plate appearances against Porcello, including two doubles and three home runs, his third-best total against any Major League pitcher.
“He knows me pretty well,” Porcello said. “I know him from competing against him in the Central. So there's not a whole lot of surprises there. But he's such a dangerous hitter, and he's really the one big guy that comes to mind when I talk about the combination of the plate discipline and the different threats that they have. I mean, he really can come at you in a couple different ways.
“(It’s about) not letting him hit that double or that home run that he's looking to hit early on in the game to set the tone and just executing your pitches against him. He's a guy that takes advantages of mistakes. So that's what I'm going to try to (avoid).”