A difficult west coast road trip has had mixed results for the Boston Red Sox, while the schedule ahead doesn’t get any easier.
The Boston Red Sox dropped their second straight game in Seattle Wednesday night, bringing their record on the current trip out west to a middling 3-4 heading into tonight’s season finale against the Mariners.
The loss was Boston’s 7th in their last 10 games, during which time they’ve been surpassed by the surging Toronto Blue Jays and fallen further behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox currently sit three games back in the AL East. Making matters worse, this recent skid has dropped them behind the red-hot Detroit Tigers, winners of eight straight, for the second Wild Card spot.
That’s a difficult notion to stomach. For the first time since April 25 the Red Sox do not hold claim to a playoff spot. If the season were to end today they would be on the outside looking in at the postseason.
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That means there’s work to do for a Red Sox team intent on sending David Ortiz off into retirement with one last shot at postseason glory. The team remains within striking distance, but a glance at the schedule gives no comfort.
It’s not the opponents that should worry us. In fact, the Red Sox have 19 of their final 56 games against teams with losing records, which doesn’t even account for the 10 games against a New York Yankees team that was one of the biggest sellers at the deadline and will in all likelihood dip back below .500 by season’s end. The leaves the Red Sox with approximately 52 percent of the remaining schedule against teams they should beat.
Most of the difficult games left on the schedule are against the teams that Boston will be competing with for a playoff spot, notably the six games against the Jays and seven against the O’s that we have to look forward to in September. This is actually a good thing, as facing these teams allows the Red Sox to control their own fate to some extent.
The biggest concern facing the Red Sox down the stretch is the number of road games remaining. The 34 road games left on Boston’s schedule are easily the most of any American League contender.
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The Red Sox have fared reasonably well on the road, going 24-23 away from Fenway Park this season. That makes them one of only three AL teams to have a winning road record, trailing only Cleveland (30-25) and Toronto (29-23), but that doesn’t exactly make them road warriors.
Once the Red Sox finish up the four remaining games on the west coast they’ll return to Fenway for a six game homestand against a pair of beatable opponents that should help them pad their record before heading out on another brutal 11-game road trip. At least they won’t need to jump three time zones for that trip, but it will include visits to Baltimore and Detroit, two of the more difficult places for opposing teams to win in.
It also includes a make-up game in Cleveland that wipes out one of only two off days the Red Sox had for the entire month of August. 30 games in 31 days, including 19 straight since the team’s last off day on July 18. A day of rest finally comes on August 8 before a string of 23 straight games to finish the month, with the next off day coming on September 1.
That’s a grueling schedule, one which may require a few of the veterans on this roster to sit out for a game or two this month to keep them fresh for the stretch run, further inhibiting the team’s ability to win these crucial games.
The Red Sox should remain in the playoff hunt for the duration of the season. Their bullpen is getting healthier, the rotation has been solidified and the excitement surrounding the arrival of hot-shot prospect Andrew Benintendi may even give this team a boost. There are certainly reasons for optimism.
The schedule just isn’t one of them.