The Red Sox begin their search for their third World Series championship in five years on Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. ET on TBS, but this particular march toward a title comes with a strange twist. No longer is Boston the team feared for its 1-2 power punch of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez in the heart of the batting order. Instead, this team is predicated on manufacturing runs through its speedy rookie (Jacoby Ellsbury), young hitting sensation (Dustin Pedroia) and new addition (Jason Bay).
But with that comes a serious question of if the Sox can win games against strong pitching down the stretch. For instance, the Sox are 21-23 in one-run games, and they're a combined 9-18 this season against the toast of the American League -- the Angels and Rays. That question will be answered as the Sox begin their title defense.
By Month: March: 1-1, April 16-11, May 17-12, June 16-11, July 11-13, August 18-9, September 16-10.
Manny's trade: It's not too often a team will ship away a future Hall of Famer while sending two top prospects and millions of dollars just to get rid of him, but that's exactly what happened at the July 31 Trade Deadline. Ramirez was becoming a distraction in the clubhouse, and the team's 11-13 record in July illustrated just how tough it became for the team to deal with it. So Ramirez left for the Dodgers in late July, and Bay entered in early August. Since the deal, the Sox are 30-18 and, despite losing perhaps the most feared hitter in the game, seem much more confident in their chances.
Sellout Streak: There's no doubt the Sox have an advantage playing at Fenway Park, and the Sept. 8 showdown with Tampa Bay added historic proof. The Sox recorded their 456th consecutive sellout that night, passing the Cleveland Indians' streak from 1995 to 2001 as the longest in Major League history. With no end in sight, Boston clearly has one of the more distinct home-field advantages in the sport -- a big reason why this Red Sox club could use home-field advantage in this postseason.
Avg.: .281, 2nd in AL
Runs: 839, 2nd in AL
HRs 173, 6th in AL
OBP .359, 1st in AL
Avg.: Dustin Pedroia, .326
Runs: Dustin Pedroia, 118
HRs Kevin Youkilis, 29
OBP J.D. Drew, .408
Stolen Bases: Jacoby Ellsbury, 50
Once a team that relied offensively on the powerful swings of Ramirez and Ortiz, Boston became a team that relies on hits to the gap, baserunning and scrappy play. Pedroia has been the catalyst of this type of mentality all season, leading the AL in batting average, doubles, runs and hits at various points in the year.
Overall ERA: 4.01, 4th in AL
Starter ERA: 3.97, 3rd in AL
Bullpen ERA: 3.91, 7th in AL
Strikeouts: 1,185, 1st in AL
HRs allowed: 147, 11th in AL
Opponents BA: .249, 3rd in AL
Wins: Daisuke Matsuzaka, 18
ERA (starter): Daisuke Matsuzaka, 2.80
ERA (reliever): Jonathan Papelbon, 2.34
Strikeouts: Josh Beckett, 172
Saves: Jonathan Papelbon, 41
Holds: Hideki Okajima, 23
HRs allowed: Tim Wakefield, 25
Opponents BA: Manny Delcarmen, .203
The main question all season is how to get a secure lead from the starting pitching to Papelbon. While the middle relief has had it's streaks of being reliable, it hasn't performed as steadily as it did during the 2007 championship campaign. The addition of Paul Byrd to the rotation strengthened the starting pitching, but much of Boston's postseason hopes will rely on how efficient Matsuzaka pitches and how dominant Beckett is down the stretch.
Fielding percentage: .986, tied for 1st in AL
Errors 81, 13th in AL
Boston's outfield is one of the more difficult defensive units to collect extra-base hits against in the game. Ellsbury and Coco Crisp are a big part of that, using their speed and durability to rotate around the outfield wherever needed. Ellsbury has yet to commit an error in 133 games played this season. Meanwhile, Kevin Youkilis won a Gold Glove Award in 2007 for his work at first base, and Pedroia makes highlight plays regularly at second. Jed Lowrie has yet to commit an error at shortstop in 2008.
April 23: Angels 6, Red Sox 4 -- Lester starts on short rest, but Sox fall to Halos
April 24: Angels 7, Red Sox 5 -- Masterson strong in debut, but Angels win late
July 18: Angels 11, Red Sox 3 -- Buchholz bows out early in opener
July 19: Angels 4, Red Sox 2 -- Beckett goes all the way, but not for win
July 20: Angels 5, Red Sox 3 -- Sox swept on road, look for answers
July 28: Angels 7, Red Sox 5 -- Dice-K tagged with rare loss as Sox fall
July 29: Angels 6, Red Sox 2 -- Red Sox avoid no-no, but Lackey too strong
July 30: Angels 9, Red Sox 2 -- Beckett allows eight runs, Sox commit four errors
vs. Angels: 1-8
vs. White Sox: 4-3
vs. Twins: 4-3
vs. Phillies: 2-1
vs. Brewers: 3-0
vs. Cubs: 0-0
vs. Dodgers: 0-0
Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.