COMMENTARY | Only 65 games will remain in the second half for Boston, just about half of which are against division foes. They have 6 games remaining this week before the All-Star break (3 at Seattle and 3 at Oakland). The Red Sox have accumulated a record of (54-37) thus far.
The Red Sox have also won more series than they've lost, by a wide margin. Against teams who are realistically still in the American League playoff race (Baltimore, Tampa Bay, NYY, Texas, Oakland, Detroit, Cleveland), they are 26-19.
Here are the first-half records of the Red Sox versus these teams prior to the A's series later this week:
vs. Baltimore 2-5/12 games remaining/6 at Fenway Park
vs. Tampa Bay 9-3/7 games remaining/4 at Fenway Park
vs. NYY 4-2/13 games remaining/9 at Fenway Park
vs. Texas 2-4/0 games remaining
vs. Oakland 2-1/3 games remaining
vs. Detroit 1-3/3 games remaining
vs. Cleveland 3-1/0 games remaining
Clearly, the biggest concerns in the second half are the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. Baltimore plays Boston 6 times in the last 11 games of the season. The New York Yankees play the Red Sox 7 times in 11 days come September, and Tampa Bay faces the Red Sox 7 more times, 3 of which are in September. In fact, 16 of Boston's last 21 games of the season are against one of these three division rivals. Of the final 32 games against these division rivals, 19 are at Fenway Park. That is good news.
As usual, the AL East is clearly the best division in the American League. If the Red Sox do not win it, they would most likely get a wild-card matchup against Texas or Oakland. But if Baltimore (4.5 games back) can win 9 of 12 against Boston and the Yankees (5 games back) can win 10 of 13, the Red Sox might be out of the playoffs altogether. Tampa (3.5 games back) would need to win 6 of 7 games against Boston to push it even further out of the race. Possible? Yes … but very unlikely.
Even if the Red Sox were to lose every game this week and the Rays, Orioles and Yankees were to win the remainder of their games (very unlikely), the Red Sox would still be only 2.5 games back at the start of the second half. From that point on, reclaiming the AL East lead would be more than possible given the Red Sox's remaining schedule compared to either of the other three teams.
Of course, outside of having to dominate Boston in these second-half series, each of these three teams also have to keep pace with a team playing at a .593 winning percentage, and a team with 27 games remaining against sub-.500 ballclubs in the second half. The Red Sox are 28-18 against sub-.500 teams thus far (.601). Additionally, of their 65 second-half games, 34 are at Fenway, where the Red Sox are playing to the tune of a .660 winning percentage. Away from Fenway, the Red Sox and the Yankees have the best record of the bunch at 23-21(.522).
The New York Yankees have 67 games to play in the second half, 33 of which are against sub-.500 teams. In the first half, they are 25-14 (.641) against these teams. Thirty-eight of their final 67 games are away from the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.
The Baltimore Orioles have 66 games to play in the second half, 28 of which are against sub-.500 teams. In the first half, they are 20-20 (.500) against these lesser teams. They have 34 of their final 66 games away, where the Orioles are 24-23 (.511) this year.
Tampa Bay has 66 games in the second half, 32 of which are against sub-.500 teams. They Rays are 23-14 (.622) against these teams thus far. Yet, 38 of 66 games remaining are away and the Rays are 21-22 (.488) on the road through 89 games. Although the Rays have closed the gap before the break, keep in mind that their 14 games before the break are all against sub-.500 teams. Ten of these soft matchups are at Tropicana Field.
What does all of this mean? The Red Sox, barring any unforeseen major injuries, just have to continue doing what they're doing. It's the rest of the AL East that has to play above the level that they have played thus far. All three teams chasing Boston have more games than the Red Sox against sub-.500 teams, but they all need to play better than they have against these teams in the first half, they have to do it away from home more often than not, and they have to dominate the Red Sox head-to-head.
Not one of these teams has a more favorable home-and-away schedule than the Red Sox in the second half, and that's great news for Red Sox fans.
Patrick Bernier is a freelance writer who has been following the Boston Red Sox for 25 years.
You can follow Patrick on Twitter @PatrickBern7.
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