The Boston Red Sox have won seven of eight contests after struggling to win a series in early July and are just six games under .500 at 46-52. They are six games out of the second wild card spot and 7.5 games out of the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles.
The team has shown signs of life lately after A.J. Pierzynski got DFA’d when the Red Sox called up Christian Vazquez on July 9. Since then the team has won 87.5 percent of their games and looks like a team that can get back into the playoff hunt before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31. All they need now is to acquire a big bat for down the stretch.
The Red Sox were fourth in all of MLB in the final five games in OPS before the All-Star break and were 4-1 during that stretch. The team might not be hitting the cover off the ball in the first three games against the Kansas City Royals, but they are working the count and getting production out of the bottom third of the lineup while the struggles of Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz continue. The Red Sox outscored the Royals 13-5 in the series and came back from two deficits in the first two contests.
Ortiz left 10 men on base while going 1-for-13 in the first three games without an RBI. Pedroia is not much better with one hit in 12 at-bats while driving in one run. If this squad hopes to get back into the hunt, then these two are the first players who need to start getting hot because the bottom of the lineup can’t keep driving in most of the runs.
Shane Victorino was activated on Saturday and has gone 3-for-7, including two hits with a double and a run scored in Sunday’s 6-0 victory over the Royals. Mookie Betts was optioned for this move as Victorino should be playing every day and Betts needs to get as much playing time as he possibly can for the time being.
Mike Carp returned before the All-Star break and has had limited at-bats since being activated after recovering from a fractured foot.
Another player to watch out for is Will Middlebrooks. Since resuming his rehab for the third time on Friday night, he has really shown signs of his raw power while also getting hits on a consistent basis. He was robbed of a three-run homer on Friday and hit a shot nearly 400 feet on Saturday night to center. He has gone 4-for-10 since coming back from a jammed wrist (should be 5-of-11 with two home runs and four runs batted in) and is looking like the offensive he was back in 2012.
If the Red Sox can stay mostly healthy down the stretch, then the team has a shot to make something happen. Especially with this pitching staff.
The Red Sox have seven games this week with all contests against AL East opponents. The team first head for a four-game set against the hot Toronto Blue Jays offense before ending the week against the Tampa Bay Rays which includes a David Price-Jon Lester matchup on Friday night. The Red Sox should be able to win both these series even if the Rays and Blue Jays are starting to figure things out.
Prediction: 5-2; The Red Sox have a real chance to get back into this race while also getting closer the .500 mark before the end of the month. Winning both series is a tough task, but if the offense can come alive at Rogers Centre, then this team can get back into it.