After a brilliant 11-game winning streak in September allowed them to move into first place and clinch the American League East title, the Boston Red Sox (93-69) played indifferent baseball in the final week of the season and lost five of their final six games.

That allowed the American League Central champion Cleveland Indians (94-67) to take advantage and finish with a better season-long record than the Red Sox and earn home-field advantage in their American League Division Series.

The best-of-five series begins Thursday at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The Red Sox and Indians will play two games in Cleveland (Game Two is Friday), followed by two games at Fenway Park (Sunday and Monday), while a fifth game would be played Wednesday in Cleveland, if necessary.

Even though the Indians have the advantage of playing a potentially decisive game on their own turf, they could have a difficult time surviving this series. Injuries have hurt the Cleveland pitching staff, while the Red Sox starting pitching has improved throughout the season.

Earlier in the year, the Indians appeared to have the starting pitching advantage with Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. However, Salazar and Carrasco are both on the shelf with injuries.

The Red Sox have Cy Young candidates Rick Porcello and David Price at the top of their rotation followed by the resurgent Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez.

The Indians are likely to go with veteran right-hander Josh Tomlin as their Game 3 starter, before returning to Bauer and Kluber for the final two games, if necessary.

Porcello had a brilliant season, compiling a 22-4 record along with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP, according to Price was inconsistent for more than half the season, but he found his stride after the All-Star Game and finished with a 17-9 record and a 3.99 ERA.

Bauer was 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA this season, but he was not effective when facing the Red Sox. Bauer gave up six runs on 10 hits in two games against Boston, and his ERA was 9.00 against them, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

The Red Sox have a powerful lineup that includes Dustin Pedroia (.318 batting average, 201 hits), Mookie Betts (.318, 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 26 stolen bases), David Ortiz (.315, 38 HR) and Hanley Ramirez (30 HR, 111 RBI), and they may be licking their chops for a chance to get at Bauer.

The Indians have a couple of strong power bats in Mike Napoli (a former Red Sox star) and Carlos Santana. Both players slugged 34 home runs this season and they will be difficult to shut down.

Porcello had just one start vs. the Indians and pitched well in 5.2 innings, while Price was 1-0 with a 3.15 ERA against Cleveland.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said his team is still in good shape even though it had a tough final week. “We’re still very confident,” Farrell told Cafardo. “We’re very confident in how we’ve played on the road. That’s what we’re dealt with and we’ll deal with it.”

The Red Sox would seem to have an advantage in this series because of their powerful offense. They scored a league-high 878 runs, 101 more than the Indians who finished second in that category. Combine that with the health of the starting pitching and the Red Sox are likely to be moving on to the American League Championship Series.

Read more MLB news on