The Red Sox are starting to run away with the AL East
The beginning of July may be too early to start making such bold predictions, but if the current state of the American League East is any indication, the Red Sox just might run away with it.
Just three weeks ago, it looked like the Red Sox and Yankees would be fighting for every inch of the division. The Yankees held a four-game lead and were riding the tail-end of a six-game win streak with the second-best record in the American League. Since June 13, they’ve lost 14 of 19 games and are in a full-on tailspin to start the second half of the season.
Over that same stretch, the Red Sox have seized the Yankees’ prolonged funk and turned a four-game deficit into a three-game advantage. Ahead of their series opener against the Texas Rangers, the Sox come into play having won six of their last seven – including a definitive sweep of the Blue Jays in Toronto.
While the Red Sox have been partly opportunistic to capitalize on the Yankee’s misfortunes, last week’s play could just be the start of what’s to come down the stretch.
Through the first 82 games of the season, they were, for the most part, an underachieving team. Individual players have stood out, namely Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, but the team as a whole never took off. Coming off Sunday’s 15-1 demolition of the Jays, they’re just beginning to look like the team every analyst in baseball predicted to run away with the division.
Over the past seven days, they’ve been getting production from the familiar names in Mookie Betts (3 HR, 11 RBI, 3 SB, .483/.556/.862) and Hanley Ramirez (2 HR, 6 RBI, .474/.500/.947) as well as an unexpected one in Deven Marrero (7 R, 7 RBI, .455/.500/.591). Their bullpen continues to be one of the best in baseball (the best since June 1) and we can’t ignore the contributions of Chris Sale and the rest of the rotation. Sale, Drew Pomeranz, and David Price combined to allow just five runs over 31.1 innings pitched with 37 strikeouts over the past week. We’d like to see more out of Rick Porcello, but he’s at least started to look better recently – even if the performance hasn’t followed.
The Red Sox now have a solid hold on the division for the first time this season, as their competition begins to fall by the wayside. The Jays have lost eight of their last ten and are close to having the bottom fall out of their season, currently 9.5 games out of the division and seven games below .500. The Orioles are hovering around the .500 mark, but have a collective 5.03 ERA with little hope of internal improvement. The Rays have managed to stay within six games of the division for the last month thanks to their all-or-nothing approach at the plate, but have overachieved just to get here.
For the first half of the season, it didn’t look like any team was willing to run away with the division as opportunities presented themselves. The past month has provided a different perspective. Since the end of May, Boston has gone 17-13 and is 46-35 for the season. If June gave them their opportunity to grab the division, July will be their chance to run away with it.
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Over the duration of the month, they have four more games against Toronto, four against the Yankees, and four against the Rays. Assuming their recent streak is something to bank on and not just a flash in the pan, the month of July could be a memorable one. Winning two of their three series against division rivals, without stumbling elsewhere, could be what puts them over the edge when all is said and done. Let’s hope that July isn’t too early to start speculating.