Boston Red Sox still have plenty to play for in final 2019 series

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 13: Rafael Devers #11 high fives Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning of a game against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park on June 13, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 13: Rafael Devers #11 high fives Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning of a game against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park on June 13, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /
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Here’s what’s on the line when the Boston Red Sox take on the Baltimore Orioles in their final regular season series of the 2019 season.

The postseason is long out of reach. That doesn’t mean the Boston Red Sox don’t have anything to play for this weekend.

The Red Sox host the Baltimore Orioles for three games at Fenway Park to wrap up the regular season. These games mean nothing in the standings but there’s plenty of incentives for certain players to perform.

It starts with Nathan Eovaldi when he takes the mound to open the series Friday night. The right-hander is coming off his first quality start since returning from the injured list in July. Granted, he spent most of his time in the bullpen after he was activated but he’s gradually built up his workload since moving back into the rotation. He held the Tampa Bay Rays to three runs over six innings, his longest outing since April. He even tossed 100 pitches, showing he’s capable of a real starting pitcher’s workload.

One start could be an outlier. Two is a trend. If Eovaldi can string together consecutive solid starts at the end of the season, the Red Sox will feel a lot better about him as a viable rotation option next year. Their comfort level in him as their fourth starter will go a long way toward determining how they approach filling out the rotation with limited resources this winter.

Rafael Devers isn’t going to win a batting title with is .310 average but he’s got a shot at leading the league in hits. He enters the series with 196 hits, trailing on Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield (201). Five hits is reasonable for Devers over a three game series but that assumes Merrifield goes without one. It may take a few multi-hit games but the the league lead is within reach.

Devers is also looking to hang on to the league lead in extra-base hits. He has a comfortable edge over teammate Xander Bogaerts (83) for the AL lead but he’s tied for the major league lead with Nicholas Castellanos.

White Sox slugger Jose Abreu leads the AL with 123 RBI. It’s a long shot that anyone would overtake him but Devers (115) and Bogaerts (113) are closest.

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Mookie Betts is sitting on 29 home runs this season. He missed the end of the last series after crashing into the right field wall in Texas but he’s back in the lineup to begin this series. One more homer from Betts would put him alongside J.D. Martinez, Devers and Bogaerts in the 30+ homer club. The Red Sox have had a trio of 30-homer hitters a few times before but they’ve never had four in a single season.

The season concludes on Sunday with Eduardo Rodriguez aiming for his 20th win of the season. Justin Verlander is the only pitcher in the majors who has already won 20. E-Rod hit a milestone in his last start when he tallied his 200th strikeout. Wins by a pitcher may be an overvalued statistic but there’s still something special about 20. He could become only the 49th Red Sox pitcher to reach that total in a single season and the first since Rick Porcello in 2016.

Boston has already clinched a winning record and can climb as high as 86 wins with a three-game sweep of the O’s. That doesn’t put them any closer to the playoffs but 86 wins is nothing to scoff at most years. It would put them only a few games out of the Wild Card if they played in the NL.

Baltimore is five ahead of the Tigers in the loss column for MLB’s worst record and the Miami Marlins are four games ahead of the O’s. Baltimore is locked into being baseball’s second-worst team so beating them isn’t doing their draft positioning any favors.  Boston could fall behind a few NL teams if they lose this series but it wouldn’t improve their draft stock enough to warrant making that a goal.

This series potentially marks the last opportunity for fans to see several players take the field at Fenway wearing a Red Sox uniform. Porcello, Brock Holt, and Mitch Moreland are among the notable players hitting free agency after the season. Martinez could opt out to test the market again. The rumor mill is expected to churn all winter with trade rumors about players who could be shipped out of town.

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2019 has been a disappointing season that his mercifully coming to an end. Enjoy it while it lasts though because there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding who will be back next year.