With the beginning of the most important month of the Major League Baseball regular season just right around the corner, it is important to look ahead to all of the playoff teams and what important series they have left.
The American League East consists of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees in a close race with only a half game between them in the standings and six games between the two teams left to play. But are those games the most important ones for both of those teams? Where do the Tampa Bay Rays fit into the equation as well?
Important Series: August 30 - September 1 vs. New York Yankees, September 2-4 vs. Texas Rangers, September 23-25 at New York Yankees
Analysis: The Boston Red Sox find themselves a half game in front of the rival New York Yankees with just over 30 games remaining in the season. The Red Sox have one more game remaining with the Texas Rangers as they look to extend their lead in the division as well as taking three out of four from a team that they struggled against for most of the season.
After that one game, the Sox head home for a three game set with the Oakland Athletics before gearing up for one of the three series that means the most for this team, a three game series against the rival New York Yankees. Game 1 of the series which starts on August 30 has John Lackey on the mound against Phil Hughes.
John Lackey is looking at a 2-0 record against the Yankees in his two games against the rivals giving up nine runs in the 11 innings he has pitched against them. Lackey has been on a hot streak lately, winning seven out of his last eight decisions with the only loss coming to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Red Sox will also feature Josh Beckett and probably youngster Andrew Miller in the other two games against the Yankees.
Josh Beckett is considered the ace of the Boston Red Sox rotation with his 11-5 record and his 2.43 earned run average. When Josh Beckett is on the mound against the Yankees, the Red Sox are 4-0 with Beckett earning three of the four wins. He has only given up three runs in the four games and has struck out a combined 30 Yankee batters. Beckett is definitely the Red Sox player that you want to see on the mound anytime they face the Yankees.
Twenty-six-year-old Andrew Miller has had a very good first season with the Red Sox with his 5-1 record and an earned run average of 4.99. Luckily, the Sox hitters have been a huge support in all of Miller's outings which earns him that record. This will be the first time that Andrew Miller will face the Yankees with the Red Sox this season. The only time that Miller has faced the Yankees was back in 2007 in which he went four innings giving up seven runs and earning himself the loss.
The Yankees will counter with Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett and Ivan Nova in the three games at the end of August and the beginning of September.
Twenty-five-year-old Phil Hughes has a record of 4-4 with a 6.46 earned run average on the year. Hughes has faced the Red Sox twice this season, once in relief and the other one was a brief start. The start only lasted two innings in which the Red Sox scored six runs on seven hits.
AJ Burnett is one of the pitchers who has had an up-and-down year for the Yankees. Burnett started very hot for the Yankees winning his first three decisions and four out of five games. However, lately it has been the complete opposite for this starter. Burnett has lost four out of the last five outings, including his last time out against the Minnesota Twins in which he only lasted 1.2 innings and gave up seven runs.
That same fate has been against the Red Sox as he faced them once on June 8 in which the Red Sox scored seven runs in his 5.2 innings of work. The Yankees have had their troubles with their rivals which is shown by those numbers.
Ivan Nova is the only pitcher who has had moderate numbers against the Red Sox earning a no decision in his only start against the team. Nova went 4.1 innings, giving up four runs, however, his team was able to come out with the win. The Yankees are hoping for a little better outing from him, but when this week rolls around, we will see what pitcher we will get.
Right after the series with the Yankees at home, the Texas Rangers come into Boston after facing the same team only 10 days before. The Texas Rangers have really gotten the best of the Red Sox until the series that just happened. Texas is a huge favorite to go to the American League Championship after bringing in two pieces at the trade deadline in order to solidify their bullpen.
Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is going to be a huge key for the success of the first place Red Sox as he has had five home runs and eight RBIs in the last three games against those same Texas Rangers. If Gonzalez can keep up this hot streak, the Red Sox should be able to take two out of three games from the Rangers.
The last important series is the second to last series in the regular season. On September 23-25, the Red Sox will head to New York to face off against the Yankees in a three games series. The division and Wild Card could be settled by then or it could be a dog fight until the ending. Nevertheless, any game between these two teams is definitely one to watch.
The Red Sox will fill out the rest of the schedule with three against the Oakland Athletics, six against the Toronto Blue Jays, seven against the Tampa Bay Rays and seven against the Baltimore Orioles.
The Red Sox look to take the American League East pennant and this surely is not going to be an easy road because of these series, but if they can take the majority of these games, the AL East should be theirs.
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