Maybe the World Series hangover is real. After the promising return of almost every Boston veteran, fans were looking forward to a fun season and potential return to the playoffs… or perhaps even deeper. But this year’s Red Sox team hasn’t been able to overcome the stellar New York Yankees or even the darn good-looking Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. Falling to third in their division is disheartening after last year’s excitement, but can we count the Red Sox out just yet? Here’s what’s going on with Boston and some of the struggles they’re facing…
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On a Positive Note…
With a record of 70-61, the Red Sox have won seven out of their last ten games, so there’s that. At least they’re not going down without a fight.
Despite fears at the trade deadline, their bullpen has actually become a key strength, and a young starting pitcher has emerged as a star on the mound. Eduardo Rodriguez has been healthy this season, and he’s now one of the best pitchers in Boston – definitely their most reliable starter. With a 15-5 record, the left-hander has taken up the slack when David Price, Chris Sale, and Rick Porcello struggled or faced injuries. Starter Nathan Eovaldi is also improving, though he only managed three innings this weekend.
Boston’s lineup is still athletic, talented, and well balanced too. Rafael Devers is thriving in the number-two spot with a league-leading 171 hits after this weekend and he’s still so young. The 22-year-old third baseman actually looks like one of the best players in the American League. Mookie Betts has been getting on base as well, but he’s had a bit of a down year after failing to live up to the lofty expectations he set last season. The rest of the Red Sox offense will need to step it up if they want to close the gap and potentially slip into the postseason.
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Struggles in Boston
The tough times started early this year for the Sox and it’s been difficult for them to recover. Boston’s pitching rotation struggled through some injuries, and they were unable to bring in strong veteran starters right off the bat. Much of the workload fell on the relievers in the bullpen while the starters finally got to the point that they could pitch deeper into late innings. By then, Boston had already lost quite a lot of games and fallen behind in the AL East. Boston’s idea to take it easy on the starting pitchers during spring training to preserve them for the postseason, well, backfired.
As for injuries, pitcher Steven Wright (elbow) and first baseman Steve Pearce (knee) are still unlikely to return this season. Even worse, their former ace, Chris Sale, is also on the injured list with no certain return date.
Boston has won 7 out of its last 10 games, but will it matter come October? It took the Sox until May to reach the .500 mark and that slow start put them in a hole that they still haven’t climbed out of. They’re currently six games away from landing a Wild Card berth and their chances of reaching the playoffs are slim… to say the least. Infielder Brock Holt sums up Boston’s position nicely, saying, “[O]bviously everybody knows where we’re at. There are three teams ahead of us essentially so we’ve got to win. We’ve got to win as much as we can. I feel like we’ve been playing good baseball… so we’ve got to keep it going.”
The problem is that Boston really needs second place teams like the Rays, the A’s, and the Indians to lose if it wants to get to the playoffs. And they aren’t.
Boston just lost a pair of games to the Phillies and dropped one to the Padres over the weekend, but let’s look forward, shall we? The Red Sox are on the road battling the Colorado Rockies this week before taking on the Los Angeles Angels this weekend. Next week, they’ll return to Fenway Park for a shot at the Twins, who are leading the AL Central right now, followed by the dreaded Yankees.
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