David Ortiz predicts the Red Sox are going to be in the playoffs

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: David Ortiz of Fox Sports smiles after game two of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: David Ortiz of Fox Sports smiles after game two of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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David Ortiz is gaining confidence in this Boston Red Sox team

David Ortiz complied enough playoff experience during his Hall of Fame career to enable him to recognize a contender. As far as he’s concerned, the Boston Red Sox belong in that group that will make a run to the postseason.

While hosting the David Ortiz Boston Heart Classic on Monday, Big Papi revealed his optimistic outlook on the Red Sox, according to MassLive’s Chris Cotillo.

"“I think the Red Sox are in a good environment right now, sweeping the Mariners this past homestand,” said Ortiz. “I think that was good for us. I can tell you right now, we’re going to be in the playoffs. I can tell you right now, I’ve got that feeling.”"

That might seem like a “homer” take from a former player who spent the majority of his career in a Red Sox uniform. Boston is currently fourth in the AL East with a 19-22 record, putting them more in the longshot category rather than the group of true contenders. However, it’s not entirely unrealistic that this team can recover from their slow start to make the playoffs.

Following a miserable 10-19 start to the season, the Red Sox have battled back to climb within three games of the .500 mark. They are currently riding a five-game winning streak and have won eight of their last 10 games, both of which are tied for the best in the majors over that span.

Meanwhile, the division-leading New York Yankees are trending in the opposite direction. The Bronx Bombers have dropped five of their last 10 games, including three consecutive losses. Boston still trails New York by 9.5 games, plus they still have the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays standing in their way, but the deficit is slowly shrinking to the point that it no longer feels insurmountable.

Even if a division title is pipe dream, that’s not the only path to the postseason. MLB added an extra Wild Card spot to each league this year. As poorly as they started this season, the Red Sox are only 2.5 games behind Toronto for the third Wild Card spot.

It’s only May. You’re telling me it’s crazy to think this team can overcome a 2.5 game deficit by the end of the season? I think it’s crazy to count them out.

Clearly, Ortiz agrees, noting reasons to believe this team is turning things around.

A woefully underperforming offense was a significant reason for their early struggles. Trevor Story is heating up, earning Player of the Week honors after belting five home runs over the four-game sweep of the Mariners. Christian Vazquez is hitting .400 over the past week. Enrique Hernandez and Alex Verdugo are showing signs of shaking out of their early-season slumps, putting together more quality at-bats. The lineup still has some holes but the Red Sox can survive a couple of weak spots at the bottom of the order. They couldn’t produce when only three hitters in the middle of their lineup were performing to expectations.

The bullpen’s inability to hold a late lead sent the Red Sox spiraling earlier this season. They lost their first six extra-inning games this season and have more losses by relief pitchers (12) than saves (8). Boston finally earned their first extra-innings victory with a walk-off grand slam by Franchy Cordero on Sunday.

The Red Sox still don’t have a proven closer but they are building a circle of trust in the bullpen. It took time to figure out who they could rely on in high-leverage spots, especially after Garrett Whitlock moved to the rotation. John Schreiber (0.00 ERA), Matt Strahm (1.88 ERA) and Austin Davis (1.96 ERA) are emerging as formidable options.

Ortiz also mentioned that he’s looking forward to the returns of Chris Sale and James Paxton. They can upgrade the rotation as well as the bullpen, by bumping surplus starters into a relief role. It’s possible those injured pitchers could be eased back in by using them in the bullpen. Either way, they provide an upgrade to the pitching staff and lengthen the bullpen.

The mood has shifted in the Red Sox clubhouse. Throughout their rough patch in April, players appeared to be miserable. You could see it in their body language and the increasing trend of non-competitive at-bats. That has all changed as the wins have started piling up. You actually see players smiling in the dugout. They actually appear to be enjoying the game and bonding with their teammates. That team chemistry is vital to making a playoff run.

As a three-time World Series champion, Ortiz knows this as well as anyone. He’s been a part of plenty of strong clubhouses that were very successful. If he’s starting to see this team developing those traits, we should probably start paying attention.

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