Boston can’t afford to stumble as their playoff push begins
Red Sox can’t afford to give up in second half
The 2021 All-Star Game has gone in favor of the American League for the 8th time in a row and the stars of the Red Sox have left their mark on the Midsummer Classic. The three hitters (JD Martinez, Rafael Devers, and Alex Bogaerts) combined for 3 hits and 1 RBI while both pitchers (Nathan Eovaldi, Matt barnes) had a total of 2.0 innings of work and 0 earned runs. The All-Star break is short-lived and with the ASG in the rearview mirror, it’s time to get back to work.
The Red Sox entered the all-star break with a 55-36 record, tied for most wins in the American League. Boston currently holds the division lead with 1.5 games over Tampa Bay while AL East’s other rivals are away, with Toronto and New York tied 8 games for first place.
Baltimore has called the basement home, 26 full games away from first place and the second-worst baseball record. The Orioles aren’t in the running, but the Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays are all anxious for the Red Sox to falter and relinquish their lead.
The Red Sox didn’t have the high hopes they now have at the start of the season. After Boston was swept away in the opening series against the Orioles, Fangraphs gave the Sox just 22.7% chance of qualifying for the playoffs. It was dark days, but the rain clouds quickly dissipated and gave way to the sun.
Three months and 55 wins later, Boston’s playoff odds have jumped to 87.8%. Fangraphs also predicts that the Red Sox will have the 5th best chance of winning the World Series trophy, behind only the Dodgers, Astros, White Sox and, surprisingly, the Mets. The Red Sox may be exceeding expectations, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
The team ended the first half the same way they started, with a crash, losing their last two sets and losing 4 of their last 5 games. With the way the team played last week, the All-Star break couldn’t have come at a better time. These days off will allow players to rest and refocus for the second half.
Even with the strong chances of qualifying for the playoffs mid-season, a playoff spot is by no means guaranteed, something this franchise knows all too well (see 2011, 1978). The Red Sox must hold onto and build on their slim divisional lead to avoid Wild Card play and earn a pass to the division round. The WC game’s one-game playoff format gives an advantage to the team with the most dominant starting pitcher.
Some of the teams likely to end up in the AL Wild Card game include the Rays (Tyler Glasnow), Yankees (Gerrit Cole), Athletics (Chris Bassit) and Angels (Shohei Ohtani). While Boston’s pitching staff have been great this season, they are by no means a true ace. Chris Sale could fill that role in October if he’s fully healthy and has returned to his pre-injury form, but that’s big if.
Anything can happen in a playoff game and if the Boston Bats, their best weapon, are neutralized by an opposing ace, their playoff hopes could be lost before they start. The safest path to the playoffs is to avoid that play-in game altogether by winning the division.
The next series of games will be crucial in determining Boston’s last place in the AL East standings. Boston opens the second half with 18 games in 18 days against division opponents. They then face the Tigers for a change of pace before rallying in 11 more games against foes from AL East. This series of matches totals 29 division clashes over 32 matches.
from Boston performance against AL East is strong so far this year with a 21-10 record. Most notably, they have a perfect 6-0 record against the Yankees which they face 10 more times in that streak, including the first set after the all-star break. They will have to maintain this trend to stay at the top of the rankings. Failing at the gate could give the Rays the lead and leave the Yankees or Blue Jays back into the race.
Even though the second half of the season kicks off Thursday, the Red Sox and Yankees will be the only teams in action. This programming gives one less day of rest during the break to the 2 teams playing Thursday than the 28 others in the league. Why would MLB only have one game on Thursday when all the other teams get an extra day off? Kike Hernandez offered a possible reason while expressing his dissatisfaction with MLB programming by Steve Hewitt from the Boston Herald
“I’m obviously not an All-Star and I really think we need a day four,” Hernandez said. “For the guys who made the All-Star Game, I mean, it sucks. As much as it’s a privilege for them to be an All-Star, especially for newbies, I mean, to have to go all the way to Colorado to play the All-Star Game and have all these emotions here and then have to get on in. a plane at the end of the game to fly all the way to the east coast to play a game in less than 24 hours, it’s tough.
“But hey, MLB loves money and the Red Sox-Yankees are making money. So let there be money.
Hopefully Martinez, Bogaerts, Devers, Eovaldi and Barnes have found some time to rest between the All-Star festivities. The team needs them to continue producing at the level that got them the trip to Colorado. A strong performance during that streak may solidify Boston’s place in the playoffs this year, but a slump could spell disaster and make their road to the playoffs much more difficult.