With the exception of a few days in early June, the Boston Red Sox have held a commanding lead atop the AL East all through the regular season. Normally, with the strength and depth in the AL division, this indicates a side ready to go deep into the post-season. They have held the Yankees at arm’s length, come up big in tight situations and generally deserved to be where they are. Yet, something seems to be lacking with the Red Sox, something that may lead to more October disappointment for the big-spending franchise.
Few observers thought pitching would be an issue for Boston this late in the season. Adding Chris Sale to a rotation containing last year’s AL CY Young winner Rick Porcello as well as David Price was a statement. Sale has been Boston’s only consistently brilliant weapon all season, and up until recently he was considered a solid bet for the Cy Young award. In fact, Sale had been so good that it glossed over Porcello’s poor performances and allowed Price time to recover from injury. However, even Sale seems to be falling apart of late. Price’s injury concerns, coupled with the form of Porcello and Sale, leaves a lot of questions over this rotation going into the crucial stretch.
Part of Sale’s, and indeed Boston’s, issues are with their likely post-season opponents. Sale is 5-8 with a 4.87 ERA against the Indians, who they will most likely face in the ALDS should they win the AL East. His last outing against Cleveland resulted in a 13-6 loss, not what is expected from your ace pitcher. Boston’s bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, also seem to have Sale’s number this season. He is winless against the Yankees in 2017 and was pulled in the 5th inning in their last meeting, a 9-2 loss on 3rd September. Crucially, both Cleveland and New York have been heating up at the right time. The Indians are in the middle of a 12-game winning streak, whereas the Yankees have clawed back to the 2 ½ games behind the Red Sox. Their closest rivals are purring along, just as Boston seems to be crumbling.
Pitching is certainly not the only problem facing the Red Sox. Run production has also been a huge problem of late. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi are among those who have been struggling to reproduce early season form. Losing Dustin Pedroia to injury at a crucial stage of the season hasn’t helped either. Pedroia is a clubhouse leader, whose worth to the team is much more than his consistent hitting and stellar defense. Should Sale, Porcello and Price recover the form that they are capable of, they will need Boston’s bats to start backing them up.
Of course, the Red Sox – more so than most teams in MLB – have proved their doubters wrong in the past. If you fancy them to turn recent struggles around, you can check the latest baseball odds available at William Hill. If everyone gets fit, and into the right frame of mind come October, then we might see them become the first team to win a 4th World Series since the turn of the millennium. However, a lot of dominoes may have to fall in the right positions to make this dream a reality.