Why Red Sox Have the Advantage over Tampa Bay Rays Heading into the Final Month

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Why Red Sox Have the Advantage over Tampa Bay Rays Heading into the Final Month
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox have only 29 games left in the 2013 season and are only 2.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays as of Wednesday, Aug. 28.

The Red Sox stand at 78-55 and need 17 wins to reach 95 wins, which is what the New York Yankees totaled in 2012 to win the AL East.

The Red Sox have three games in hand on the Rays with one fewer loss going into the final five weeks of the season.

But what gives the Red Sox the advantage down the stretch over the rival Rays?

Home Sweet Home

Coming off their West Coast trip, the Red Sox had 18 of their final 30 games at Fenway Park where the squad had a 40-23 record. This calculates to a .635 winning percentage. If the Red Sox win the same percentage the rest of the way, that would mean 11.43 wins the rest of the way. This would put them at 88 wins, meaning they would need to only win seven of 12 on the road the rest of the way.

The Rays on the other hand have only 14 home games compared to 19 road games. The Rays are only .500 on the road and have a tough stretch with a 10-game West Coast swing starting on Aug. 30 against the Oakland Athletics.

The home versus road splits may be the main difference down the stretch as these two teams battle it out down the stretch.

Players Getting Hot

Mike Napoli has begun to find his stroke after a miserable start to August, including three hits on Saturday and a two-run bomb Sunday against the Dodgers. He was hitting .333 over his last seven contests heading into Wednesday night's contest with three homers and seven RBI. If he can continue this ride, the Red Sox will once again have a solid 4-5 combo.

Will Middlebrooks has also been hot since his return from the minors. In 15 August contests as of Aug. 27, the 24-year-old had hit .367 with two home runs and seven RBI. He had walked seven times and struck out 14 times. His OBP was an impressive .448.

Also, the Red Sox pitching staff has found a nice rhythm over the road trip with solid performances by Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, John Lackey and Felix Doubront. With great starting pitching being contagious, the Red Sox should be able to cushion their lead in the AL East over the next few weeks.

Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce are starting to get hot for the Rays and Matt Moore is expected to return Sept. 3. However, Moore and David Price can't carry this Rays team to an AL East title with a lack of pitching from other starters and not much run support down the stretch.

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AL East Games Remaining

The Rays have a mere 13 games against the AL East remaining, including three at home against the Red Sox, and end the season on the road with three against the Yankees and then three against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Red Sox may have 21 games against AL East opponents left, including 18 of their last 20, but the 31-24 record they have through the first 55 games in AL East play is the best record in the division. Eight of those final games are against the Baltimore Orioles who have had the Sox's number in recent years, but the Red Sox have five of those games at home.

All stats are via ESPN.

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