Back At It
The Red Sox start up a four game series with the New York Yankees tonight. Coming out of the All-Star Break, the Sox have a 3.5 game lead over the Bronx Bombers. At one time in June, it looked as though the Yankees were going to start running away with the division, but the Red Sox had other ideas.
The Road Ahead
To start, the Sox have 42 of their remaining 73 games at home. This is not only more than any other team this season; it is more than any team ever. In the first half of the season, the Red Sox were tied for most road games played in the first half of the season, so naturally, that would even out in the second half. Over the first half of the season, the Sox have played 50 road games and going an even 25-25 in those games. As far as the division goes, this is huge for the Sox. No other team has a record above .500 on the road in the AL East.
This bodes well for Boston. The Sox have survived the toughest part of their season while the other teams in the league will be having quite a few more games on the road. This gives the Sox a perfect opportunity to gain more of a lead in the division.
Finding Their Rhythm
Going down the stretch, the Red Sox are also starting to find their rhythm. The pitching rotation, which looked shaky early, has found its identity. Their bullpen has the same characteristics. The Red Sox bullpen has surprisingly been unhittable. Joe Kelly is an animal who throws over 100 like it’s easy and hasn’t allowed a hit since May 1st. Craig Kimbrel is a monster in the 9th inning, and when he comes in, you know your night is over. Overall the pitching ranks 4th in ERA (3.82), 5th in quality starts (51), 5th in WHIP (1.25) and 11th in BAA (.251).
The offense struggled mightily early on in the year, and now has lived up what was expected from them. Early on in the year the lineup ranked just about the middle of the road from April through May, in the last month the lineup as jumped up to top ten in the league in runs (9th) and 5th in batting average and on-base percentage.
This weekend’s series against the Yankees presents a beautiful opportunity for the Sox to gain a sizeable lead in the AL East. They can send a message to the rest of the division that this is their division and the other teams are going to have to fight for second. Or, the Red Sox can leave the door open. Splitting the series 2-2 would be bad enough as it would send the message that they are beatable, dropping three or worst case scenario, four would tell the division they are completely vulnerable.
The bottom-line, the way the Red Sox handle this weekend will tell you a lot about how they will do in the second half of this season.