Sox are still secure, but a path to a possible downfall is starting to show
With the Red Sox no longer dominating the AL East, the factors that could lead to an eventual downfall are already appearing. That’s not to say the Sox will fall, but if a few things don’t change, that could be the direction they’re heading.
There’s one factor that the Red Sox have total control over, and that’s pitching. The Sox bullpen has taken a lot of big hits this season. They’ve lost Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Andrew Miller to season-ending surgeries. Jon Lester, although much-improved in his last start, hasn’t been himself for far too long. And with no timetable for Clay Buchholz’s return, the starting rotation has only been weakening. John Lackey and Felix Doubront have been solid in recent weeks, but they’re still prone to major missteps, as we saw in Lackey’s last start.
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Sox management made a great move in picking up Matt Thornton from the White Sox, but there’s still the problem with the rotation. Making another trade in these next two days wouldn’t necessarily help. Not to mention, with the exception of Cliff Lee rumors, there isn’t really anyone better available at this point. Acquiring Jake Peavy from the White Sox could prove beneficial, but his health is always an issue. Still, the talent in the Sox bullpen is definitely already there, but the starters have to get physically and mentally healthy and get back to where they were at the beginning of the season if they want the team to go far.
The Sox don’t have as much control over the other two factors, but they’re eerily reminiscent of 2011. The Rays and the Orioles have a lot of pull in the fate of the Red Sox. The Rays have obviously been red hot lately, and although that can’t last forever, they’ve shown that they have no intention of abandoning the top of the pack. They have all of the potential to end up winning the division.
With the exception of the last series against them, the Orioles have shown the Sox over and over again that winning doesn’t come easy. And consistently losing division games to the O’s won’t help their chances of taking the top spot, or even the Wild Card spot. Of course the Sox have a role in that, but it’s not as though the O’s are consistently blowing them out. They put up a good fight, and they could put up enough of one to keep the Sox from seeing October.