Boston Red Sox need to avoid being road kill
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox have sparked a rebirth of their season after a dismal beginning. The real test for this team will be if they squander road games and become a win at home and lose on the road team.
The Boston Red Sox do have a tradition with some of their more disappointing teams, and that is road games where they go to die. Those ponderous West Coast excursions were usually fraught with failure, dissipating lately (thankfully). The last championship in 2018 produced a 51-30 road record. In the past, when they won, they won by playing .500+ baseball on the road.
Teams have traditionally modified their roster to account for their home park. Boston looked for sluggers - usually slow afoot and needing more speed. That concept has changed just as the park has changed. Winning at home is translated to winning on the road.
The Red Sox's latest surge into respectability has taken place at home and must continue on the road. The dynamics certainly changed in the briefest of times as the team was running the bases with skill and not abandonment, the lineup produced and often in the least expected places, and defensively the clown show disappeared. This was becoming a very good team and winning on the road can make it a great team.
Red Sox need to make sure road games are their home away from home
Boston has faced top teams in the early schedule -- possibly the most demanding schedule in the American League. Now comes Philadelphia and Atlanta to test the newfound mettle of this squad. This will continue throughout the season, and as the old baseball axiom goes, play .500 on the road and .600 at home. We will soon discover if this team is an illusion, and that will be as they march through a road schedule.
To quote Rodney Dangerfield, last season, the Toronto Blue Jays gave the Bostonians "no respect." That certainly changed with a recent sweep of the Jays at Boston, but a series in Hog Town (6/30-7/2) in honor of Canada Day will further test this team against AL East competition of the highest caliber.
In early April, Boston had a series in Tampa where the little engine that can dusted off Boston in a four-game series. The Rays have been a nemesis for the Red Sox for decades, and the 2011 season was harrowing, thanks to the Rays. Another plus is breaking the curse of the Rays, who have had historic success recently against Boston.
For the vast majority of Red Sox Nation, it is all about the Yankees, who are struggling of late. A road test of this team would be against the pinstripe gang. The Yankees are a physical and emotional challenge, not just any team. A win against the O's is as good as a win against the Yankees, but that morning coffee roll tastes better with a win against the Noo Yawkers.
They call certain contests in football trap games; in baseball, it could be called a trap series. Games in which you expect to beat an opponent like voracious locusts do to a wheat field. This brings up another baseball axiom: no matter how good your team is, they will lose 50 games. Just don't go to Oakland and get trampled. Vary of every opponent, no matter what the odds.
May has started with a nice bounce, and the team is beginning to get some local emotional leverage. There is not a star cluster, but some players are grinders. The pitching is shaky; injuries accumulate like dog fur on pressed pants, and the defense occasionally takes a step or two backward, but they do recover and have now mastered the art of the comeback.
Any positives and good feelings can be quickly evaporated with a road-losing streak. Manager Alex Cora has been good at his job, and Chaim Bloom is starting to get some kudos for his roster. Even ownership made a strategic signing move with Rafael Devers. But the season will come down to making the road their natural home away from home.