Many cities and towns in Massachusetts started the school year this week. In the Boston area rain and cooler temperatures marred the first day, Wednesday 8/27, as if the door to summer slammed right in our faces. But quietly the Red Sox have decided to show us, like the great weather today, that summer isn't over yet. The Sox start this series with the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim CA a five and a half games behind the Oakland A's for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. It was now or never for the division around the trade deadline. It's now or never right now for the playoffs. Christopher Smith of Masslive.com lays out the daunting task for the Sox:
With that in mind, let's get into this series.
Pitching Matchups/Schedule (TV)
8/31 - Undecided vs Dillon Peters (NESN 9:07pm)
The Red Sox bullpen is making Dave Dombrowski doubters cry. Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez are the latest to light it up. According to Statcast: Josh Taylor's sinker is averaging 94.9 MPH (that's Nathan Eovaldi territory), and opposing batters are hitting a measly .211 against the pitch. Darwinzon Hernandez's fastball is averaging 95.2 MPH, and opposing batters are heating only .200 against it.
The Red Sox bats are red hot. They have homered in the past 18 games straight. Rafael Devers has 200 career RBI, making him the fourth player since 1920 to reach that milestone while still under the age of 23. The others on the list: Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, and Tony Conigliaro. Oh, and Xander Bogaerts is the first Red Sox SS since Nomar Garciaparra in 1998 to have a 30 homer/100 RBI season.
The Angels starters are a mixed bag in August. Jose Suarez is carrying a 9.18 ERA and 0-3 record. Dillon Peters isn't doing much better. He's 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA. But Andrew Heaney is a whole different kettle of fish: 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA.
Mike Trout is dealing with a minor foot injury and his status for this series is uncertain. The last week is the coldest stretch of the year for this MVP candidate. The same can be said for Shohei Ohtani.
What To Watch For
The return of David Price to the starting rotation. If the Red Sox are going to make any noise in September they need a good to great David Price. When we last saw him he had gone 0-2 with 13 earned runs in his last three starts before going on the IL. He'll face a tough test on Sunday going against Heaney.
The Red Sox also need Nathan Eovaldi to turn it around. He has given up seven earned runs in his past five innings over two games.
The Minnesota Twins are 82-51, while the Cleveland Indians are 79-55. In effect the first Wild Card is coming from one of these two as we sit on the cusp of September. That leaves the A's and the Rays as the closest competition for the last playoff spot.
- Oakland 77-56
- Tampa Bay 77-58 1 Game Back
- Boston 72-62 5.5 Games Back
If the Red Sox want to make the playoffs they really need to sweep this 64-71 Angels team that has gone 3-7 in it's last ten. With Eovaldi, Price and an undecided starter pitching it may seem like a tall order. But the bullpen and the offense, along with the slumping Angels, could make it a reality. The Red Sox split against the Angels in Fenway at the beginning of this month. That kind of performance is no longer acceptable.
Featured Image via Wadetours.com