With Sunday's extension of the Wild Card lead to four games on the back of a doubleheader sweep (Jon Lester is the beast of all beasts), Boston's entrance into the playoffs as the Wild Card winner is all but assured. And at seven games behind New York, it still ain't over!
But there's a problem.
Don't get me wrong, making the playoffs is great and I'd pick that over missing the playoffs. But the Red Sox don't seem as well-equipped to advance far in the playoffs as many would like to think.
A couple days ago, I buoyed some of your spirits by talking about how dominant the Red Sox bullpen is. Coupled with a shorter rotation, the Red Sox are primed to mean business in October.
But allow me to drop anchor just a bit. The Red Sox have the majors' best home record at 50-21. Just behind the Sox are the Yankees at 50-22, and no other team comes close.
What's the downside? The Sox are below .500 on the road at 34-37. They would join Detroit as the only two teams below .500 on the road if the playoffs began today. Other teams in the hunt for a spot, such as Texas, San Francisco, Atlanta and Florida do not have this conundrum.
Side tidbit: Tampa is 43-26 at home, 29-45 on the road.
As the Wild Card winner (fingers crossed), that number doesn't look so presentable given the Wild Card is the de facto road team in the playoffs (except for the World Series, if they make it that far, thanks to the All-Star Game).
This means we would have to do battle with the Angels on their turf and win on their turf. We'd have to do battle with, and win, on Detroit's turf. What's that? Oh, okay. I guess I should mention the possibility of doing battle on Yankee turf too.
When the Red Sox suffered through their rough stretch from mid-July to August, they lost 13 of 18 (thank you for three wins, Baltimore) on the road. Toss Baltimore out, and the Sox lost 13 of 15. That is not pretty at all. They lost against Texas, Toronto, Tampa Bay and New York.
You could look at it one of two ways:
1) The Sox are completely screwed. They don't know how to win under pressure on the road.
2) The Sox endured a rough stretch, where they were losing left and right regardless, and this is a different team.
If you subscribe to the latter notion, that 34-37 record shouldn't scare you.
The Sox are a completely different team with an emerging Clay Buchholz, a Boston-loving Alex Gonzalez and firebreathing and ballin' Billy Wagner slamming doors shut. This is not the same team that racked up those road records.
Still, I get nervous. So how about we make up those seven games and go in the playoffs as division champions instead? Works for me.