Fly back to Boston.
That was a pretty sickening weekend, starting with the debacle in Toronto Thursday afternoon. I’m not going to dwell on any of those games since, well, it might make me throw up. But, a couple thoughts.
Lost in the bullpen collapse was a pretty good start by John Lackey. I don’t think I could ask for much more from a starting pitcher. That’s a great sign going forward. The start by Jon Lester was also just what the Sox needed. A few more of those from each of them would go a long way. Obviously, the bullpen needs help. Whether one of the budding stars pulls a Masterson, and becomes a light-out set-up guy while he develops, or the Sox acquire a player, they need more bodies. If they keep using Bard and Papelbon every game, bad things will keep happening.
So, where do we go from here? The Sox stand six games out of the division, with 43 games to play. They’re five games behind in the wild card. So, this is where all the people start with their, “If the Sox play .600 ball, and the Rays play .500 ball…” calculations. And, since I’m not that creative, I’m going to do that too. But, in this case, it’s actually still completely up in the air. It all comes down to the head-to-head match-ups. When people toss out the final records, the qualifier is usually something like, “Of course, that’s assuming the Rays play .540 ball the rest of the way.” The reason for the qualifier is that it’s crazy to expect that. The Rays have been playing .607 ball all season. Why would they “only” be a .540 team? The head-to-head. The Sox have seven more games with the Rays this season. That in itself is enough to do some damage.
Even more pivotal, the Rays have seven more games with the Yankees. So, if the Rays do play .600 ball against the Yanks, the Yanks will have to play .400 ball. One of them has to lose every one of those seven games. So, take the September 13th series. The Yanks are playing the Rays, while the Sox are in Seattle. The next week? The Yanks are playing the Rays while the Sox are hosting Baltimore. Bingo. The Sox don’t need to hope for the people ahead of them to play poorly. One of them has to.
Of course, the real interesting thing is the Sox final week. Their last 10 games are against the Yankees and the White Sox. Will the Yankees be resting guys at that point? Will Chicago be trying? Those are pretty much toss-ups. Six or seven wins out of those ten games certainly seem reasonable.
The best part is the Sox strength. The rotation. They don’t need to “set it up” like other teams might. Other teams have taken huge hits because they had to fight down to the wire. If your ace needs to pitch the last game of the season, he can’t pitch in a game 1. The Sox don’t have that problem. I see no issue if Lester has to pitch game 162, leaving “only” Beckett to pitch game 1. Or Lackey. Or Clay. I wouldn’t dread tossing Dice out there if I had to (3-1 career postseason record). So, having to fight to the end isn’t an “is it really worth the effort” dilemma for the Sox. Getting in really is all that matters.
And, that’s still a very real option.
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