Red Sox face difficult nine-game stretch against winning teams

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with Mookie Betts #50 after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros during game four of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 9, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with Mookie Betts #50 after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros during game four of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 9, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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The Boston Red Sox face a steep challenge heading into the July 4 holiday with nine games against teams with winning records.

The next nine games will tell us a lot about where the Boston Red Sox stand among the contenders. The upcoming schedule presents the most difficult stretch the team has faced all season.

Each of the next nine games will be against teams that currently hold a winning record. The Red Sox have yet to play more than six consecutive games against winning teams this season. So far they are 16-13 against teams currently above the .500 mark. Not bad, yet well below their season .658 winning percentage.

The test of three contenders

This stretch begins with three games against the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park. The Angels are in a bit of a rut, dropping six of their last ten, including three in a row. However, they are not to be taken lightly. They still have Mike Trout, the best player on the planet. Putting him on the same field with Mookie Betts makes for must-see TV.

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Three of the next four games are against a left-handed starter. Boston ranks 22nd in the majors with a .689 OPS against lefties. Their need for a right-handed bat who can crush southpaws could be exposed over the next few games.

That leads us into a meeting with C.C. Sabathia and the New York Yankees in the Bronx. Boston is currently a half game behind New York in the AL East. The Red Sox are tied for the major league lead with 52 wins but also have two more losses than the Yankees do. They could really use a series win to avoid falling further behind their division rivals.

At least the Red Sox will have Chris Sale on their side. The lefty’s spot in the rotation didn’t come up the last time these teams met in New York last month. Sale did beat the Yankees in April, holding them to one run over six innings.

Unfortunately, the Yankees have a Cy Young contender of their own wrapping up the series Sunday night. Luis Severino is tied for the league lead with 11 wins. He ranks third with a 2.24 ERA and sixth with 123 strikeouts. Severino will be opposed by David Price, who hasn’t exactly enjoyed facing the Yankees.

It doesn’t get any easier when the Red Sox travel to Washington to face Max Scherzer. The right-hander is well on his way to securing his fourth career Cy Young. He’s 10-3 with a 2.09 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 13.5 K/9.

It gets easier… eventually

If the Red Sox manage to navigate this brutal nine-game stretch without falling much further behind the Yankees then they’ll get the chance to make up some ground by beating up on bad teams again. They’ll head into the All-Star break with 10 games against losing ballclubs.

Their last road trip of the first half concludes with three games against a Kansas City Royals team tied for the major league lead with 54 losses. The Red Sox return home to host the Texas Rangers, who occupy the basement of the AL West division. Boston cruises into the break with four games against the 37-41 Toronto Blue Jays. The Red Sox are 7-2 against their rivals north of the border.

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It doesn’t get much easier than those ten games before the break. The path to get there won’t be easy. Boston should pad their win total against losing teams. It’s how they perform against postseason contenders that shows us who they really are.