At days end, the Boston Red Sox sit in third place of the American League East, five-and-a-half games behind second place Tampa Bay, and six-and-a-half behind division leaders New York Yankees.
The Red Sox 2010 campaign has been characterized by injuries and misfortune. Many members of the Sox, including ace Josh Beckett and starting catcher Victor Martinez, have suffered injuries that have kept them out for a significant amount of time.
MVP second baseman Dustin Pedroia, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, and C Jason Varitek still remain on the DL, and many of the Red Sox have suffered nagging injuries that have kept them out for small amounts of time and affected their day to day performance.
Yet there is a somewhat optimistic attitude surrounding the Sox, despite the uphill battle to come. For starters (no pun intended), the Sox rotation is finally healthy. They are amidst the second consecutive turn of the original five starters, and only the fourth total all season.
Since July 23, the date of Beckett's return, the Red Sox rotation sports a combined ERA of 3.26 and WHIP of 1.19 through nine games. Despite the small sample, this could indicate the fruition of the original goal in creating this rotation: a quality start nearly every game.
Additionally, things are looking better on the injury front. As well as the returns of Beckett and Martinez, Pedroia and Ellsbury are reportedly no more than a few weeks out from rejoining the team full-time.
The Sox also have a combined 16 games remaining against the two teams in front of them in the division; six against Tampa, and 10 against the Yankees, including a three-game home stand against New York to end the season.
The best thing the Sox can do in this situation is just simply win games, and the remaining schedule allows them a great chance to significantly impact the division race.
Recent Red Sox history points to a possible second half surge. Winning down the stretch is not uncharted territory for the Sox. In 2004, a 28-game period from August 10 to September 8 saw the Sox go 24-4, leading to a wild card clinch and an eventual World Series title.
While the Sox do have some unanswered questions, first and foremost who will be coming out of the bullpen in the middle innings, the Red Sox management believes they have some potential answers. Lefty Felix Doubront and righthander Michael Bowden have been targeted as potential call-ups, and consistent fixtures in the Sox bullpen for the remaining season. Both have the attention of Red Sox coaching staff and have performed well in their brief major league careers.
It can't be ignored that the Sox have probably the two best teams in baseball in front of them in the division, but when healthy, this team isn't that far behind. The Sox also have the benefit of knowing that just a second-place finish in the AL East will all but guarantee them a wild card berth.
With two months remaining and plenty of story lines still to unfold, the AL East division race should provide plenty of excitement.