MLB Playoffs: 5 Items on the Boston Red Sox's September To-Do List
As the Boston Red Sox head down the September stretch, they have fallen 2.5 games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East.
The Red Sox are coming off a two-game losing streak and are winners of four of their last 10 games.
Boston has struggled recently and has a list of priorities that need to be taken care of before it makes the playoff push in October.
Lackey Needs to Be Less Lackluster
That number listed above would be John Lackey's ERA.
Lackey is 12-11 on the season and has looked miserable at times, especially on Sunday's performance against the Texas Rangers, where he allowed six runs over five innings on eight hits.
The $80 million man has lost three of his last four games.
The Red Sox desperately need the John Lackey that won seven of nine games from July 9 through Aug. 23 if they hope to contend come October.
Get Wake to 200 so He Can Move on
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Your Boston Red Sox five-man rotation currently goes as follows: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett (injured Monday), John Lackey, Tim Wakefield and Eric Bedard.
Which of those five can you guarantee will not leave the mound with a win before even knowing whom Boston might be playing?
Over the past month, that man has been Wakefield. The old knuckleballer has not won a game in the past seven games as his quest for 200 wins continues.
Before hitting 199 career wins, Wakefield was 6-3 on the season. The Sox must drop the 200-win jinx that has been cast on Wake in order for the team to get back on track.
Get Beckett Healthy
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If there was one area the Red Sox could not afford to lose a player at, it was their starting rotation.
With Lackey continuing to struggle and Clay Buchholz still on the DL, Beckett has returned to form after a dismal 2010 campaign that saw him finish the season 6-6.
In 26 games Beckett has been fantastic, throwing one complete game, winning 12 games, losing only five and pitching the second-best ERA of his career at 2.54.
According to ESPN Boston's Allan Ryan, Beckett is day-to-day with a sprained right ankle and he is being sent back to Boston for further examination.
The Red Sox will go as deep into October as Josh Beckett can take them.
Get Carl Crawford Going
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Carl Crawford and his ability to swing the bat have been problems throughout the former-Tampa Bay Ray's season.
The prize free agent of the 2011 class is hitting .250 and has hit safely in six of his last 32 at-bats.
Crawford has also dealt with health issues, which he might be trying to push through due to his lackluster season.
The speedy left fielder dealt with a hamstring issue as well as a strained left elbow, which has brought him on and off the disabled list.
If the Red Sox hope to play deep into October, they will need Carl Crawford to simply have more plate discipline and start swinging the bat more consistently.
Figure out the Bullpen
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Bobby Jenks is likely done for the season. Matt Albers and Dan Wheeler aren't the most trusted arms in the pen, either.
Franklin Morales has been a bright spot in the bullpen as of late, though. Throughout the 2011 regular season, Morales has posted a 3.72 ERA, the lowest of his five-year career.
Add Alfredo Aceves to the list of pitchers who have played beyond any expectations this year. Aceves has been the backbone of Lackey's woeful pitching days and has pitched 94 innings, a career-high, with a 2.87 ERA.
The Red Sox must get their bullpen in order if they plan to hold onto a playoff berth.
Hold on for the Ride
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The Red Sox hit a lull recently but will look to ride a hot streak into the playoffs, with all of their 22 games left against division rivals from the AL East.
Boston is leading the Wild Card spot for the American League playoffs by seven games, the exact number of games left against the team that currently sits in second, the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Boston Red Sox have a specific list of qualms they will have to overcome coming out of September, but if they can, they should be favorites heading into October.
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