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Tampa Bay Rays hope Red Sox peaked too soon: A fan’s take
The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees are tied for the lead in the American League East with 35 games left to play. The Red Sox and Yankees do have a comfortable 8.5 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild card race. It appears that both teams are lock to make the playoffs.
But with the injuries mounting and questions surrounding the starting rotation, is it possible that the Red Sox peaked too early this season? The Tampa Bay Rays and their fans hope so.
The Red Sox got off to a slow start this season. They finished up the month of April with an 11-15 record. Once the weather started to warm up, so did the Sox. During May, June and July the Sox played at their peak, posting an impressive 55-24 record (69.6% winning percentage). On Aug. 1, the Red Sox had a one game lead on the Yankees in the AL East and they were 10 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Red Sox have given up ground in August. Through the first 22 games in August, the Sox are only 12-10. The New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays have both gone 13-7 through their first 20 games in August. The Red Sox lost their lead over the Yankees in the AL East, and the Rays have picked up 1.5 games in the wild card race.
There are a couple reasons for the Red Sox's regression in August.
First, the injuries are mounting for the Red Sox. On June 17, Clay Bucholz went on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back, weakening the starting rotation, which was already the weakest part of the Sox roster. In July, Bobby Jenks(notes) and J.D. Drew(notes) joined Bucholz on the DL. Kevin Youkilis(notes) is the latest addition to the Red Sox disabled list, going on the DL on Aug. 18 with back stiffness. David Ortiz(notes) and Jacoby Ellsbury(notes) have also missed time with day-to-day injuries.
Second, the Red Sox have some major weakness in their starting rotation. Josh Beckett(notes) (10-5; 2.46 ERA) has been outstanding and is a bona fide Cy Young candidate. Jon Lester(notes) (13-6, 3.16 ERA) has once again been solid in 2011. After Beckett and Lester, things get shaky for the Sox. Tim Wakefield(notes) (6-5,; 4.97 ERA), John Lackey(notes) (11-9, 6.02 ERA) and Erik Bedard(notes) (4-9, 3.57 ERA) fill out the Sox's starting five, striking fear into the hearts of no one.
The Red Sox will face a difficult schedule over the final 34 games of the 2011 season. They'll face the AL West-leading and defending AL champion Texas Rangers five times. They'll play the New York Yankees six times, and they'll square off against the Tampa Bay Rays seven times. Those 19 games against the top competition in the American League will test the Red Sox's ability to find their second wind heading into the playoffs.
In order for the Tampa Bay Rays to have any chance winning the AL wild card, the Boston Red Sox would have to crumble down the stretch. Even if the Red Sox only go 17-17 over their final 34 games, the Rays would need to go 26-9 (74.2 percent winning percentage) in order to catch the Red Sox. The Rays only hope is that the Red Sox continue to deal with injuries to their key players and their starting rotation continues to falter. If the Red Sox continue to deal with those issues, they could continue to regress.
Even if the Red Sox have peaked too soon, and they do continue to struggle over the final six weeks of the regular season, the odds are against the Rays catching them in the wild card race. The Rays also have a very difficult schedule over their final 35 games. They play the Detroit Tigers twice, the Texas Rangers six times, the Red Sox seven times and the Yankees six times. The Rays would need to play at their peak and their offense would need to get hot if they have any chance of going 26-9 over the final six weeks of the regular season.
All the Rays and their fans can do is hope that the Red Sox peaked too soon this season and that they'll struggle over the final six weeks of the regular season. If the Sox play like they did in April and the Rays can finally play at their peak then there is still a slim chance of the Rays catching the Sox in the AL wild card race.
Sean McDonnell has been a resident of the Tampa Bay area for the past 21 years. He is an avid fan of the Tampa Bay Rays; Tampa Bay Bucs and USF Bulls.
*Statistical information provided by Yahoo! Sports
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