How one stretch of games defined the 2019 Red Sox season
The thing about baseball that makes it so different than other sports is the number of division games that are played during a season. More than half of a team's season is comprised of them, unlike football and other sports that make them worth less than half of a team's schedule. And all of those division games can either help or hurt a team's postseason chances. In the case of the 2019 Red Sox, one group of those division games may have severely wounded their shot at the postseason.
Due to some quirky scheduling, the Red Sox were made to face the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays a combined 14 consecutive times over the course of four series between Tampa, Boston, and New York. Six of those games came against the Rays, while eight came against the Yankees. And the Red Sox got off to a great start in those crucial 14 games, picking up five wins out of the first six and finding themselves in playoff positioning.
Then, for the Red Sox, disaster struck. The team went on an eight-game losing streak, losing the final game of a four-game set to the Yankees before being swept over for three games by the Rays and getting swept in a four-game series with the Yankees. They were overtaken for a playoff spot and haven't found a way to get back into the race.
The pitching staff struggled during that stretch of games, which could end up defining the Red Sox season. They gave up fewer than five runs five times during those 14 games, including just once in the final eight games, in which the team failed to record a win. Now the Sox find themselves playing catch-up for a Wild Card spot, which was hardly how they envisioned their title defense going, with MLB picks before the season largely expecting the Sox back at the top of the AL East and competing for another World Series.
All is not yet lost for the Sox, though, as they still have time to make up the deficit in the Wild Card race. Christian Vazquez has been hot for the Sox, who will need similar contributions from the entire batting order. Fortunately, the Sox have chances to make up ground against the rest of the teams they are in competition with for playoff spots the rest of the way, as the race for the Wild Card spots is far from over.
The Twins and Cleveland could knock each other down a peg the rest of the way, as they play each other six more times this season. Meanwhile, the Sox have nine games left against the Blue Jays and Orioles, compared to just eight more against the Rays and Yankees. That favorable scheduling could be just what the Sox need to make up some ground in the final weeks of the season. If anything, the Sox have proven over the years that even when they fall behind, it isn't wise to count them out. They will look to prove that again down the stretch in 2019.