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You probably saw this coming, but nothing encapsulates the Red Sox's start to the season quite like their 17-17 record, good for a .500 winning percentage. It took Boston several tries to reach this modest benchmark, but they were able to do so for the first time with a win against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night.
On the one hand, this is a disappointing start for a team with championships aspirations and a talented roster. On the other hand, the Sox find themselves just 1.5 games out of first place after suffering through injuries, inconsistency and a bout of defensive inadequacy. This team has survived DL stints from Victorino and Middlebrooks, minor injuries to Pedroia, Uehara and Napoli and poor starts from 40 percent of its starting rotation, yet it is still very much in the hunt.
With excellent defenders at first base, second base, center field and right field—plus the potential for good defense at third base and in left field—the Red Sox should not falter defensively as they did in April. Clay Buchholz has always been streaky and should round into form, and if Felix Doubront doesn't follow suit, the Red Sox have plenty of replacements for him in Triple-A. Hitting with runners in scoring position is less about skill than it is about statistical variation, so that should improve, too.
The 2014 Red Sox are not the juggernaut that their predecessors became, but they're still eminently capable of winning a wide-open division, and with their financial flexibility, stacked farm system and young talent, this is a team and organization on the way up. It might not be a smooth ride, but if the Sox are playing deep into October once again, their .500 record on May 9 will become nothing more than a footnote in their history.