If the Boston Red Sox had won last night and the Philadelphia Phillies had lost, the Sox would have the best record in all of baseball right now. As it stands, they still have the best in the American League and lead the AL East by a game and a half.
They are living up to their billing as preseason favourites for the AL pennant, but if they are to reach the World Series for the third time in eight years, they will need some better performances from key players down the stretch.
In some ways, 2011 has mirrored his great 2008 season, which saw him win the AL MVP Award. He started slowly (batting .255 in April and only .227 in May) but has really turned it on in July. He has a 16-game hitting streak and a 29-game on-base streak and is hitting .400 this month with six home runs.
Jon Lester was an All-Star again this season and if he continues at this pace he will almost exactly replicate last season’s numbers (19-9, 3.25 ERA).
But his FIP is much higher than you’d like, at 3.94, and there have been very few instances this season where he has looked un-hittable or totally dominant.
Still on the DL with a back injury which has sidelined him for over a month, there is no timetable for Clay Buchholz’s return this season. When he does rejoin the team, though, they will expect more than the 3.48 ERA and 6-3 record. He has not been bad but, like Jon Lester, he has not exhibited the ace-like stuff of last 2010.
He does not need to turn it around majorly and hit .600 down the stretch, but a little more than .223 would be nice.
Fewer than 20 percent of his at-bats this season have come against lefties, and he is on the Mendoza Line (.200) in those ABs, so Terry Francona is not going to play him if there is a southpaw on the mound. Josh Reddick has been a good replacement so far but has been only a little over average against everyone but the Baltimore Orioles. The Sox could really do with JD Drew getting hot—or at least lukewarm.
We all know the off-field issues with which John Lackey has been battling and it is hard to criticise the guy for pitching poorly when he is dealing with that, but the fact remains: he has been dire.
He is 7-8 with a 6.70 ERA. He does not need to pitch one-hit shutouts every outing down the stretch, but if he got his ERA down to anywhere near 4.50, it would be good.
The Boston Red Sox invested a lot in Carl Crawford this offseason, signing him to the biggest contract ever awarded to a player who had never hit 20 home runs in a season, and he has taken his time in showing them he was worth the money.
Even after better performances in recent months, he still has career-worst marks in average, OBP, wOBA, wRC+, WAR and walk rate.