Red Sox Face Early Exam: Tampa Series As Important As They Come in May
Mike Cameron is slated to perhaps come off the Disabled List tonight and enter the Red Sox lineup.
This fact alone is not likely to prompt cartwheels in the streets of Boston—but it's what the transaction would mean that is more important.
With Cameron's return, the Red Sox will be about as whole as they've been since the sixth game of the season when they began a four-game set in Tampa that's about as important as games in May can be.
They also happen to be getting whole at the same time they're getting a whole lot better. Last week featured road tests in New York and Philadelphia—against the preseason World Series favorite from each league, no less—sandwiched around a mini home stand with the division-leading Minnesota Twins.
That stretch produced a 5-2 record that could have been even better had Jonathan Papelbon not imploded one night in Yankee Stadium.
Given the state of Red Sox Nation just two weeks ago, five wins in seven games against that kind of competition is nothing short of remarkable. Newspapers and televisions shows had already written three paragraphs of the team's eulogy when the Sox reminded them it's only the second month of the season.
I'm not going overboard in the other direction here either. A seven-game stretch of solid play does not a champion make. It's an encouraging string of games, no doubt, but at this point that's all it is.
Which is precisely what makes this four-game set in Tampa so interesting. Three wins in four games at the Trop send it from encouraging to downright promising and could set the stage for a three-team division race to the finish line that only last week included just two teams.
The key to the return has been pitching. Clay Buchholz has emerged as the legit Major League starter everyone hoped he would be.
Don't look now, but two of Daisuke Matsuzaka's last three starts have been gems, including the near no-no on Saturday night.
This is all with Josh Beckett on the DL and John Lackey out of sorts. If those guys ever get it going, the Sox will have the rotation the fans have been promised.
But that's for another time. In the here and now, the focus is on the four games with the Rays, who swept the Sox in completely dominant fashion at Fenway less than a month ago. This is Boston's chance to show how different things are already.
So how different are they? Check back after the next four games and I'll let you know.
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