Red Sox can get back on track with soft schedule this week

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Enrique Hernandez #5, Alex Verdugo #99 and Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox celebrate after defeating the New York Mets 2-1 at Citi Field on April 27, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Enrique Hernandez #5, Alex Verdugo #99 and Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox celebrate after defeating the New York Mets 2-1 at Citi Field on April 27, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox benefit from facing a pair of last-place teams this week

The Boston Red Sox are in a bit of a funk following a frustrating series in Texas where they dropped three out of four to the Rangers. It was the first series they have lost since they were swept by the Baltimore Orioles to open the season. Boston still sits at the top of the AL East but if they truly consider themselves a contender, a Rangers club with the second-most losses in the American League is one they need to beat.

The schedule does the Red Sox a favor by allowing them an opportunity to bounce back against the only team in the league with a worse record than Texas, the Detroit Tigers.

Detroit leads the majors with 21 losses and they are the only team that has yet to reach double-digits in the win column. The Tigers enter the series on a five-game losing streak and they have dropped nine of their last 10 games. They own a -62 run differential that is by far the worst in the majors.

The anemic Tigers offense ranks dead-last in the AL with 79 runs, a .195 AVG, .255 OBP, .338 SLG, .261 wOBA and 67 wRC+ this season. We know strikeouts have been on the rise in recent seasons with a dozen major league hitters whiffing more than 30 percent of the time last year. Detroit is taking it to another level with a collective 30.9 K% this season.

Tigers pitchers haven’t fared much better as they are tied for last in the league with a 5.04 ERA. Detroit’s 7.90 K/9 is the second-lowest strikeout rate in the AL and they walk batters at the highest rate with a 4.08 BB/9. This staff is also prone to the long ball, tied for third-worst in the league with a 1.41 HR/9.

None of this bodes well for Detroit as they prepare to go up against a Red Sox team that can do damage with their lineup and has a pitching staff that is exceeding expectations. It will be mildly disappointing if Boston doesn’t sweep the three-game series and cause for alarm if they fail to win the series.

After the Tigers leave town, Boston will travel to Baltimore for their third series of the season against the Orioles. The Red Sox had their revenge for the humiliating series at Fenway to open the season when they returned the favor with a sweep in Baltimore. This team won’t be intimidated by another trip to Camden Yards, where the O’s are 4-10 this season.

Baltimore got off to a surprising start this season but they are 11-15 since sweeping the Red Sox and have fallen to the bottom of the division. Granted, the Orioles are only three games behind Boston in the tightly-contested AL East but their -9 run differential, the fourth-worst in the league, suggests they are lucky to be only one game below .500 this season.

The O’s lineup isn’t nearly as pathetic as the Tigers but they certainly aren’t good. Baltimore is 12th in the league in runs scored, 13th with a .289 wOBA and 14th with an 88 wRC+ this season.

Their pitching staff is in the middle of the pack, ranking 8th with a 4.06 ERA. Orioles ace John Means, who shut down the Red Sox on Opening Day, is currently scheduled to pitch Wednesday against Seattle, which likely means he’ll miss the four-game series against Boston.

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Boston needs to take advantage of this fortuitous schedule to pad their record before the competition stiffens. The Red Sox will return home form Baltimore to host an Oakland A’s team that has the league’s best record followed by Mike Trout‘s Angels before traveling north of the border to face a Blue Jays team that currently tails Boston by two games in the division.

The Toronto series could be pivotal in determining the front-runner in the division as we head toward the end of May but Boston can do themselves a favor by expanding their lead in the meantime. Beating up on a pair of last place teams is a great way to create a comfortable cushion in the division race.

The last time the Red Sox lost a series they responded with a nine-game winning streak. The schedule sets up nicely for them to make a similar run to recover from their disappointing trip to Texas.

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If they aren’t able to dominate this upcoming stretch, we’re really going to have to start worrying about their ability to sustain their spot in the standings. Contenders don’t play down to their competition so if the Red Sox intend to hang on to their division lead, they need to win against the cellar-dwelling teams they are expected to beat.