THE ROAD WORRIERS

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THE ROAD WORRIERS
The good news is that the Red Sox have won two games in a row—on the road, no less. Unfortunately, that has been the exception. Losing on the road has become rather customary. The three-game sweep at the hands of the Angels over the weekend, though embarrassing, was hardly unusual or unexpected to anyone paying attention. The last time the Sox won a series on the road was June 16-18, when they took two out of three in Philly.

The Red Sox are now 59-43 -- sixteen games over .500. And that is largely due to their exceptional 36-11 record at Fenway Park. The club’s 77% home winning percentage is the best in baseball. But on the road, it’s another story entirely.

Away from Fenway, the Sox are 23-32, or nine games below .500. This deficiency is hard to figure since they lead the league in on-base percentage (.338) and slugging percentage (.425) in road games.

For whatever reason, when they are not in the comfy confines of Ye Ole Ballpark, the Red Sox manage to win just 42% of the time. That’s a clear indication that they need to win the AL East and gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Tampa Bay may fade down the stretch, but they’re not going away quickly or quietly. They have shown they won’t go down without a fight. The Rays have depth and will be buyers, not sellers, in the deadline trade market for the firs time.

And the Yankees aren’t dead yet. Aren’t they just like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees? Just when you think they’re dead... With the trade deadline just over a week away, expect them to act. Loudmouth Hank would have it no other way. He’s got to prove himself as he hopelessly tries to live up to Daddy’s image and history.

Coming out of the All Star break, 49 of the Red Sox final 59 games are in the Eastern Time Zone. That will help the Sox. The Yankees, on the other hand, play 24 of their first 27 games after break against teams with winning records. That should hurt the Yanks. And the Rays have 12 games in 17 days during September against the Red Sox and Yankees. That will ultimately prove whether or not they are truly a playoff team.

Meanwhile, the Angels, at 61-39, have the best record in baseball. And after the way they handled the Sox in Anaheim, the Halos look like they are indeed the best AL team at this moment. We’ll see what happens in October. The month hasn’t been very good to them in recent years.

Notes......

- How happy are you that Julio “The $9 Million Man” is out of the lineup? What a relief!

The guy is a total rally killer with a penchant for grounding into double plays. He was batting a meager .268 this year, an improvement over the anemic .237 he posted last year. And his RBI (22) and home run (1) production were also way down this year. He was on pace for just 24 extra-base hits, which would have been his lowest total of any full season in his big league career, and he was the team’s worst hitter with runners in scoring position (.139, 11 for 79). As I said, rally killer.

And then there’s the other crucial element to the game—fielding, which he’s not very good at. Lugo’s 16 errors were the most by a shortstop in the American League and tied Florida’s Hanley Ramírez for most in the majors. His .945 fielding percentage was the lowest among major league shortstops. Please, Julio.... don’t come back!

It will be nice to see Jed Lowrie play every day and find out if he is indeed the “shortstop of the future.” You know, the guy we’ve been waiting for since this same time four years ago. Thought we had him in Orlando Cabrerra, but that’s another story.

- Daisuke Matsuzaka has given up just three runs in his last 30 2/3 innings. Only twice in 17 starts has he allowed more than three runs, resulting in an impressive 2.63 ERA and 11-1 record this season. Opponents are 0-for-11 this season with the bases loaded against Matsuzaka.

- The best deadline pickup for the Red Sox would be the return of slugger David Ortiz, who leads the club with 297 RBI over the last three seasons. Mike Lowell is second with 257, and Manny Ramirez is third with 214.

- Though the All Star break is ostensibly the season’s halfway point, the Red Sox had already played 97 games, meaning that there were just 65 games remaining in the season’s “second half.”

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.
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