Boston Red Sox Could Be in the AL Playoff Picture When They Get Back Home

Al DanielCorrespondent IIJune 29, 2012

TORONTO, CANADA - JUNE 2: The Boston Red Sox celebrate 7-4 win against the Toronto Blue Jays during MLB action at The Rogers Centre June 2, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

Could this be the year the adage that advises against following the Major League Baseball standings until after Memorial Day introduces Independence Day as the new patriotic occasion to start?

It may be if the Boston Red Sox have their way on the west coast over the coming week and build upon their latest achievements over the second half of the 2012 season.

The Sox entered Thursday night’s action, the first of four road bouts with the Seattle Mariners, boasting an American League-best 19-14 record on the road. They trail only the Atlanta Braves (23-17) for the best mark in the majors away from home.

They will not have another off day until Thursday, July 5, at which point they will have spent the previous seven days battling the Mariners and Oakland Athletics, two of only five sub-.500 teams in the league.

Granted, they dropped that series opener at Safeco Field, 1-0. But for what it’s worth, Thursday’s first pitch was barely 24 hours after they finished a three-game visit from the Blue Jays with a six-hour, coast-to-coast flight in between.

No excuse, but an explanation. And now that the Sox are on one coast for each of the next six days, they ought to have thawed out any travel-induced freeze by Friday’s first pitch and carry on with its best hot streak to date in the young Bobby Valentine era.

Prior to hitting the road, Boston was 11-3 in its last 14 outings, easily its best two-week stretch to date in 2012, going into the Seattle series.

Translation: Boston’s boys of summer have ostensibly begun to peak concomitantly with the arrival and aftermath of the summer solstice.

The trick, most naturally, is to sustain the heat. And for this seven-day swing, the Sox need to be sure not to get too high on the slate or the standings and to avoid regurgitating what one might take for a couple of cupcakes.

Despite Thursday’s setback, Boston is still tied with Tampa Bay and trailing both the Angels and Orioles by a mere 1.5 games in the wild-card derby.

The most ideal outcome for the week out west would be to relinquish no more than one decision in each park at Seattle and Oakland.

By winning at least five, if not all of the next six, odds are the Sox stature in the standings will have improved by the time the Sox host the opener of a four-game set with the A.L. East-leading Yankees next Friday.

Not long thereafter, most likely after the All-Star break, they may re-unveil centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, easily the most prized position player to have been on the disabled list of late.

Ellsbury is slated to play his first rehab game with the Gulf Coast team on Friday. And his eventual return, even if he still needs time to replenish his game, will be a welcome, timely addition against tougher opponents, particularly divisional cohabitants that will comprise each of the final 24 games of the regular season.

And time will tell as to whether the Kevin Youkilis trade to Chicago might draw any parallels to the deal that exported Nomar Garciaparra to the same city in 2004.

But, as another adage goes, first things first. The Sox need to start small in Seattle and cement their foundation for a reckonable race in 2012 while the calendar morphs from June to July.