The next two weeks will be pivotal for a team on the brink.
Enough with the excuses. Enough with the empty promises. If the Red Sox hope to have any chance at repeating as world champions, the time to get their act together is now. In reality, it’s long-past due. Since Opening Day against the Seattle Mariners, fans have been waiting for the team to start playing to their capabilities. Given how unbelievably good they were last year, they should easily be a top 3 team in the American League. But the season, so eagerly anticipated, has been marred by lackluster pitching, inconsistency, and plain ol’ bad luck. The Red Sox are on the brink. This next stretch will make or break them.
Boston has just 14 games to prove it can stay in the playoff race. Starting Monday, Boston will play three games against the Tampa Bay Rays, with second place in the AL East on the line. After that, it’s four against the AL-leading Yankees. That’s followed by three more against the Rays, and four more against NY.
Hopeful in the Second Half
After a disappointing first half, which saw the club go 49-41, the team looked forward to the second. They gained some momentum, winning 5 of their last 6 before the All-Star break. Hoping for a strong second half, they went into the break in good spirits. It didn’t start out well. The team has lost two of three series since the All-Star break. Granted, the first was against the Dodgers, who are running away with the National League. Even so, there were plenty of chances to win two of three. Reminiscent of Game 3 of the World Series, the finale stretched for 12 innings, with the Red Sox unable to break the tie.
The second series went much better. The team won three of four against the non-competitive Blue Jays. The third series, which ended Sunday, should’ve been easy: Three games against the Orioles, the worst team in the league. The Red Sox dropped two out of three, including a 5-0 shutout on Sunday, which saw journeyman Asher Wojciechowski dominate for 7.1 innings. He had a no-hitter going until the 6th.
Looking for Relief
The team hoped to gain some ground behind Andrew Cashner, who, in early July, was traded from the Orioles in exchange for a few prospects from the Dominican Summer League. From May 1 to July 6, he had a 3.66 ERA with an opponent OPS of .624, and he seemed like a solid pickup. The back end of the Red Sox rotation has been a major issue. Cashner was supposed to help boost it. However, In his two starts with the Red Sox, he has a 7.36 ERA with an opponent OPS of 1.083. Back end or not, that’s unacceptable.
If the Red Sox wish to be seen as a contender, they have to dominate this two-week stretch. They’ve gone 5-5 since the All-Star break. Winning 50% of the remaining games simply won’t cut it. As it stands, the Red Sox are 2.0 games behind the Rays in the AL East, and 3.0 out of a Wild Card spot. They can still take second place and a playoff spot. But for that to happen, they have to show up ready to dominate. With the trade deadline just nine days away, the Red Sox are on the brink. The next 14 games will determine what kind of team the Red Sox are: A viable postseason contender which hasn’t lived up to its enormous potential, or an ill-fated band of mediocrity, which reached so high last year, only to fall so low.
Tom is a Red Sox and Patriots fan. He’s a Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts enthusiast, and the Fitchburg State Beerbong World Champion. You can follow him on Twitter @PrimeJD.