If you are a Sox fan like I am, you realize that the first half was frustrating with how inconsistent this team has played. And if you are like me, you still think there is a chance that they can make a run and get back in contention for a playoff spot. The next 17 days are going to decide whether the Red Sox will play for a playoff spot or become sellers. That’s not to say that the rest of the season will not be as important if they desire to make the postseason but those games will be irrelevant if they struggle over the next two weeks. Looking at the American League East standings, the Sox find themselves tied for last place with the Tampa Bay Rays and 9.5 games back from the first place Baltimore Orioles. Luckily for the Sox, they have the ability to get back into the A.L. East with a bunch of divisional games coming up. They will play 16 games over the course of a 17 day stretch and 9 will be at home and 6 on the road. The important part about this stretch is not just who Boston plays but who the division leading Baltimore Orioles play. Let’s start by taking a look at the Red Sox schedule.
7/18-7/20: vs Kansas City Royals
7/21-7/24: at Toronto Blue Jays
7/25-7/27: at Tampa Bay Rays
8/1-8/3: vs New York Yankees
This is not an easy schedule by any means but three of these teams are ahead of them in the A.L. East. When you dig yourself a huge hole as Boston has done every game from now on out has to be treated like a playoff game if they have any desire to make the postseason. Now let’s take a look at the Orioles schedule over the same period.
7/18-7/20: at Oakland Athletics
7/21-7/24: at Los Angeles Angels
7/25-7/27: at Seattle Mariners
7/29-7/31: vs Los Angeles Angels
8/1-8/3: vs Seattle Mariners
A big factor of the Sox’s ability to get back into the American League East is Baltimore is going on a lengthy West Coast trip. East Coast teams have a tendency to struggle on the West Coast and they are playing the three best teams in a competitive A.L. West. If they take care of their schedule over the course of the next 2 weeks, they should be able to gain ground in the A.L. East.
In order to gain ground, the sox will need to do 3 things.
1. Hit: They are worst run producing team in the American league after a 2013 campaign of being the best offensive team in baseball. Dustin Pedroia is 20 points below his career average and his .729 ops is the lowest of his career by almost 60 points. David Ortiz his hitting 30 points below his career .285 average. These two are in the middle of the order and need to step up their production in order to score more. There has been a lack of power in Boston as they have only hit 68 Home Runs, which is third worst in the American league.
2. Defense: Over the home stand before the break, the Red Sox made some costly errors that lead to runs for the other team and a higher pitch count for the Sox pitchers. Xander Bogaerts and Mike Napoli really struggled on the corners and for a team that is not tearing the cover off the ball they have to defend better.
3. Playing better at home: The Red Sox have really struggled at home this season going 23-26. They have been streaky at home as they went on a 7 game home winning streak early in the year and they went 3-7 on their last home stand, which was a vital part of the season up this date. 53-28 was the Sox record at home last season. If the Sox want to get back in it, play better at home and use the crowd to their advantage.
There is no question that the Sox have dug themselves a difficult hole and have to be almost perfect in order to get back into the playoff conversation. One bad weekend could be enough for Ben Cherington and the Red Sox owners to give up on 2014 and begin thinking about 2015. Becoming sellers could see players like Uehara and Gomes be shipped out of town and the rest of the season could be difficult to watch, not that it could be much worse than it already has. The hope for Sox fans is can they really play this poorly for an entire season. Things eventually have to change and I keep wondering if these young kids can provide the spark that is needed to get this team on a run that can push them back into contention (Bradley, Vasquez, Holt, Bogaerts, and Betts). If the Sox do make a run and get back into the postseason talk, look to these next two weeks to be the time when they make their move.