Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Red Sox Undefeated in September

The playoff race always begins in earnest in September. No matter what happened earlier in the season, you always wait until September to see who is still standing. For example, back in June when the Tampa Bay Rays were in first place, Red Sox fans were heard claiming, "wait until September, they won't last". Well, maybe that's not the best example, since the Rays have more than lasted. How about this one from Yankee fans back in June, "wait until September, the Yankees will be right in the middle of the playoff race". Darn, another bad example.

Well, I think you get the message. The playoff race officially goes into its final phase starting in September, and the Red Sox are definitely in the thick of it. While they are an uncomfortable 5 games behind the Rays, the Division Championship is not out of reach. There are two big reasons for that. First, the Red Sox play 16 of their final 25 games at home, where they are 46-19. The second reason is that they have 6 games remaining against the Rays. The fastest way to catch an opponent is to beat them head to head. I'm not saying it will happen, but I am saying that playing the Rays 6 times in September gives the Sox an opportunity to make quick steps up the ladder.

Paul ByrdUnfortunately, this season these two teams have been very territorial against each other. In six games against the Rays in Boston, the Red Sox are undefeated, sweeping both 3 games series. However, the Rays have simply returned the favor when playing in Florida, sweeping the Red Sox in both of the 3 games series played down there. If the same were to take place in September, I don't like the Sox' chances of catching them. Right now, there are 25 games remaining for the Sox. If the Sox and Rays split their remaining 6 games, there is no change in their standings relative to each other. That leaves the Sox 5 games back, with only 19 other games on the schedule. Making up 5 games in a 19 game stretch when you do not face each other is tough. It would require the Sox to go on a bit of a winning streak, which is possible with so many games left at home, and the Rays to get into a bit of a slump, which is not unheard of (just look at the Mets last year). But, the Rays have showed no signs of slowing down, so I think the Sox' real chance at catching them hinges on the head to head meetings, starting next week.

Last night, the Sox started September in proper fashion with a nice 7-4 win over Baltimore. I am glad to see that, especially since Baltimore has had a knack for being a thorn in their sides in the 21st century. Paul Byrd is proving his value in adding depth to the rotation, going 3-1 in his four starts for Boston. I think that is a nice fill-in for what the Sox were getting from Clay Buchholz. Jason Varitek and Jeff Bailey hit back to back solo home runs in the second inning to get things started, Dutin Pedroia remained hot driving in 2 runs, and Jed Lowrie doubled in two runs of his own in his bid to hold on to the starting short stop spot for the remainder of the year. for Lowrie, it may work out similarly to Jacoby Ellsbury last year who got extra playing time down the stretch when Coco Crisp was not 100%.

Jed LowrieJon Lester goes for his 13th win tonight against Radhames Liz. I am not too worried about Liz, his control is not great, and the Sox will take advantage of too many walks. The Sox also clobbered Liz earlier this season, running him from the game in the 3rd inning. So, this could be a good day for Lester. The one thing I'm going to keep an eye on with Lester is fatigue. Lester has been a work horse this season, but he is young and this is his first full season in the majors. We've seen with some players (like Buccholz last year) that fatigue can set in around this time of year. If the Sox can afford it as September progresses, it would be nice if Lester could get an extra day of rest in here or there prior to the playoffs starting - provided doing so does not hinder their chances at being in the playoffs at all.

(Photos Courtesy of ESPN)


Fenway West said...

Now the fun begins, and in 3 weeks I will be at Fenway. I am really surprised that the Rays continue to play well without Longoria.

Suldog said...

Dustin has a couple of good series against the Rays and he might take the MVP. Hope so, anyway :-)

Rooster said...

FW - the Rays are not looking like a team ready to collapse. Hopefully, when they play head to head, they'll start to get more jittery as reality of what they are doing sets in.

Sul, Dustin is still on a roll. Hope he can finish up the season that way. Hate to see him cool off just in time for playoffs.