It's no secret that the Boston Red Sox are doing everything in their power to make it to the postseason, and to do so, it is crucial that they finish off their current stretch off series with victories over the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees.
The Red Sox started off on the right foot, defeating the Nationals by a score of 5-4 on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, but following this series, they take on the Yankees on their home turf in the Bronx, aka enemy territory.
Right now, the Nationals are floundering, and sit in last place of the National League East with a record of 53-67. They are all, but eliminated from the playoffs, sitting 24.5 games back of first place, but a win on Wednesday night, and a loss by the New York Mets, puts them in fourth place.
The unfamiliarity with the team does pose some problems, as Boston has had to rely on video exclusively in order to prepare for its matchup with the Nats, but the Sox had no problem answering the call on Tuesday.
If they are able to handle this series, they should feel good going into the weekend series with the Yanks. Boston has gone 5-1 against New York this season, with the one loss coming at Yankee Stadium, according to statmuse.com.
After facing off with the Yankees this weekend, the Red Sox will then travel to Houston to take on the Astros, then take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at home, then the Astros again (also at home). All of this coming without a day off in between any of the series (barring any rain-outs, of course).
The Red Sox have by far one of the hardest stretches of the season, in fact their strength of schedule is ranked to be the third hardest in the entire league moving forward, as ranked by tankathon.com. It is as fellow BoSox Injection writer Riley Nordquist writes "a grueling test down the stretch."
If Boston is to get through their next two series with at the very least victories, if not sweeps, the Red Sox should be in good shape when they take on the rest of the month when they come face-to-face with some of their hardest opponents all season.
Now, while the first part doesn't seem to daunting of a task for them to overcome, Boston has had its periods of time during this season where they have played down to their competition.
For example, they were swept very early on in the season by the Pittsburgh Pirates at home who now sit in last place on the National League Central, and they also fell to Colorado Rockies in two out of the three games at Fenway Park. Or when they lost two out of three to the lowly Oakland Athletics on the road.
What if they are unable to win both, not to mention either, series?
If Boston is unable to take one of the series, or worst case scenario either one, they may not be in the worst position, however. It may be critical to win both, but let's play devil's advocate here for a second.
Many times during the season, they have played up to the level of their competition that they are facing. In fact, when they were facing the Minnesota Twins earlier in the season, they were able to take two out of three from them at Fenway Park. They were also even able to take two out of three from the Texas Rangers.
If the Red Sox are able to play up to their level of competition, as they have had a history of doing this season, it will bode well for them moving forward.
But the competition is so good, why should fans be optimistic?
Now, while the competition is steep, if Boston is able to take these next two series, momentum will be swinging its way, and they will go into its toughest stretch of the season ready to go against some of its toughest opponents yet.
When the Red Sox have had momentum going in their favor, everything seems to click on all cylinders: hitting, stealing, defense, and pitching. Now, with Trevor Story returning from rehab, it all seems to be falling into place for Boston with a tough stretch coming up.
With Garrett Whitlock returning as well, along with Chris Sale, things are looking good for the pitching staff. If both of them are able to return to form along with the additions that the Red Sox should make when the roster expands, the formidable stretch should look, a tad bit easier. Not easy by any stretch, but maybe more manageable.