MLB Playoffs: 4 Keys to the Boston Red Sox Winning the AL East
The Yankees currently have a half game lead on the Red Sox, but with two series left this season there is plenty of time for the division to swing in either direction.
From the Red Sox perspective you have to be pretty excited about their chances. They are 10-2 against the Bronx Bombers this season and have one of the best offenses in league.
Even down half a game, Boston fans should be confident that the race is far from over.
However, like with any team there are key areas that the Red Sox will have to succeed in order to win the AL East.
Here is a few things the Red Sox will have to have in order to win the AL East.
Success from the Third Starter
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After losing Clay Buchholz for the season due to a stress fracture injury the Red Sox have been looking for one of their starters to step up and fill in the roll.
John Lackey—while better of late—has been anything but reliable.
So Boston went and acquired Erik Bedard at the trade deadline. He has improved with each start so far with the Red Sox, but concerns remain.
Compared to the rest of the league the Red Sox are in relatively good shape with their pitching staff. They have two top flight pitching options in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Most of the other playoff contenders in the American League only have one.
So the depth in the staff won't be a huge concern until the playoffs. However, every game counts when you are in a tight race with the New York Yankees.
If the Red Sox can't get stability at that spot in their rotation it could cost them crucial games down the stretch.
Strong Bullpen Performances
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The Red Sox have been fortunate to have closer Jonathan Papelbon return to his dominant form. As well as the continued progression of hard throwing set up man Daniel Bard.
Both of these talented arms along with the rest of Boston's bullpen will be crucial down the stretch.
Relief pitching is one of the most unpredictable areas of your team. It can be frustrating to build a reliable bullpen and we've seen many overpaid closers come and go on every team in the league.
Papelbon and Bard have turned into one of the best one-two punches in baseball. I believe it is one of the major reasons that the Red Sox have had as much success as they have.
Especially when your starting pitching isn't the most reliable part of your team. It is very important to have arms in your bullpen that you can turn to to get the job done.
Boston will need these arms down the stretch to close out those crucial tight games.
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While his statistics are impressive and he is certainly meeting expectations in his first year in Boston, Adrian Gonzalez will need to continue to produce.
The Red Sox arguably have three players in their lineup that could be in the running for the American League MVP.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez have all been the main pieces of a very talented offense. Each player has a case to be the MVP of the league.
Still, Gonzalez is your core. While I love the player Jacoby Ellsbury has developed into and the leader that Pedroia is, the offense will suffer with a struggling Gonzalez.
Gonzalez's success in the lineup changes the way pitchers will throw to the rest of the lineup. If Adrian is swinging a hot bat then everyone else will benefit.
Gonzalez's numbers are still strong and pitchers will still respect him. This is most likely just a regular slump that almost every hitter experiences throughout the season.
Boston should just hope he can snap out of it soon and help them win games again.
Continued Success Against the Yankees
Both the Red Sox and the Yankees are two of the top teams in the MLB.
It is likely that they will both continue to beat the vast majority of the competition they face outside of each other. So the final six games that these two teams have left against one another will be crucial in the AL East race.
As I mentioned earlier the Red Sox are 10-2 against the Yankees head-to-head this year. If I'm a Yankees fan then I am concerned about my team's ability to beat the Red Sox.
Even with the Red Sox having a lefty dominant lineup, Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia was unable to slow the offensive juggernaut.
If the Yankees can't figure out a way to get over the hump against their long time rival then the division title could be given away directly.