Can the Boston Red Sox catch the Tampa Rays?
Wait, who said that?
That's right, heading into the final month of the season, the Tampa Rays hold a five-game lead over the 2007 World Series Champs. The Rays and Sox have both been playing very good baseball of late. Both have won seven of their last 10.
The Rays have won five in a row and are going for No. 6 against the New York Yankees, who are coming into town for three games. The Red Sox started a series with the Baltimore Orioles last night. The Sox won the game last night, 7-4.
The Red Sox have 25 games remaining, and the Rays have 27. The two clubs will meet six more times. One series in Boston and one in Tampa Bay.
The Red Sox they will most likely have to win every series from here on out. The Red Sox have a much easier schedule than the Rays.
The Red Sox have games remaining against Baltimore, Texas, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Cleveland, and New York. Tampa Bay, obviously, is the best amongst all their remaining opponents.
The combined winning percentage of the these teams, excluding the Rays, is .488. So it is safe to say that the Red Sox have a easy schedule to wrap up the season. Also, 16 of the last 25 games are at home.
The Rays have games remaining against New York, Toronto, Boston, Minnesota, Toronto, and Baltimore. The games with Boston will be the most important, unless the Rays fall off into the wild-card debate, then the games with Minnesota could mean a lot.
The combined winning percentage of these teams, excluding the Red Sox, is .510. The Rays will be playing most of their remaining games against teams with a winning record. Of the remaining 27 games for the Rays, 17 of them are on the road.
There is no question that ever since the Sox acquired Jason Bay, the level of play in Boston has gone up. The Red Sox's record since acquiring Bay is 19-9. Bay has provided a spark for this ballclub. Also, the Red Sox have really started to play well without shortstop Julio Lugo and third baseman Mike Lowell.
It looks like Lowrie, the Red Sox's shortstop, has taken Lugo's job as the shortstop. Lowrie is hitting .280 and has an on-base percentage of .352. Lowrie has 23 extra-base hits.
Lowrie is also a stronger fielder. He has only made one error while seeing time at shortstop, second base, and third base. Lugo was hitting just .266 and had only 14 extra-base hits. Lugo also was a liability in the field. He had 16 errors in 82 games with Boston this year.
With Evan Longoria on the DL, people may have thought the Rays would have been affected by it. However, the Rays have maintained their pace. Longoria hasn't played since Aug. 7.
One month remains and five games separate the Red Sox and Rays. Can the Red Sox pull off a legendary comeback and take the division? Or will injuries plague the Red Sox's chances? One thing is for sure, the Rays are real, and the Red Sox will have to pull out all the stops to pull this comeback off.
I strongly believe that experience is going to play a huge role down the stretch. The Red Sox will take the division. Why? Mike Lowell will return and put some power back into the lineup. Josh Beckett will also return and pitch the way he always does in big games.
J.D. Drew will also return and get on base a lot. Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia will lead this team to a division title. The schedule is also in favor of the Red Sox.
Joe Maddon is one of the best managers in baseball, but he hasn't managed on the big stage yet, and many of these players on the Rays have never played in the postseason or even been in race for a playoff spot. Ultimately, both of these ballclubs will make the playoffs and meet in the ALCS, but who will have home-field advantage?
The Red Sox.