Can’t imagine getting more out of that road trip than what the Red Sox gave us. Winning both series would have been a best case scenario. That’s exactly what happened. Perfect.
While you had to like the Sox chances in San Francisco, expecting a sweep on the road is always risky. Going into LA to face the hottest team in the league was easily another possible series loss. To pull out the win was a wonderful bonus. And, yes, I know we missed the Dodgers top two pitchers. But, it’s not like the Sox were winning these games 8-7. The starting pitching took care of the Dodgers line-up as well. So, who’s to say how much better Kershaw would have done, if Peavy is spinning a gem of his own?
Which adds another interesting twist to the stretch run. The starting rotation had a pretty good turn there. Was it because they were pitching in NL West parks? That certainly helped. But, they still did what they needed to do. Which makes the return of Clay Buchholz all the more fascinating. If he comes back even close to what he was at the beginning of the year, that would be quite the boost to the staff. It would also make for some interesting decisions. Do the Sox drop Dempster from the rotation? With only a month left would they use a six-man rotation? Would they skip a starter here and there down the stretch? They would have lots of options. Lots of things to play around with.
So, what does that all mean?
The Rays loss last night gives the Sox a 1.5 game lead in the division. Obviously, that’s not a ton. Especially with three games at the Rays left to play. Unfortunately, this could come down to how hard the other teams are trying in September. The Sox finish up with three in Baltimore. Will the Orioles be in the playoff hunt then? Will they be playing rookies to get them experience? They face the O’s for three at Fenway the week before that. Will they still be trying then? How about the Rays. How many of the teams they play from here on out will have given up? Remember the 2011 “collapse”? A lot of that was due to teams not trying. The Yankees had the division sewed up. So, when they played the Rays all through September, they sent out the B line-up. Especially in that last critical series. Same went for the Red Sox. They assumed they had the wild card well in hand. So, they didn’t mind that Kyle Weiland kept getting starts against the Rays in September. If that happens again, obviously, all bets are off. It’s going to come down to match-ups, schedules, and injuries. Thankfully, the Sox have a majority of their remaining games at home. While that’s not a huge advantage, it’s better than traveling.
We’re heading into the last homestand in August, and the Sox find themselves in first place.
Can’t ask for much more than that.