We’re About To Find Out Just How Legitimate The Rising Red Sox Really Are

Tomase: We’re about to find out how legit the Red Sox really are originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Now comes the real test.

The Red Stockings shots through the easiest part of their schedule to conquer a 10-19 start, reach .500 and then zoom into the joker position. After winning the Guardians this weekend, they are at the top of the wildcard race and only second in the American League East.

Regardless, their turnaround was nothing short of remarkable, with a record 19-4 in June and a mark of 32-12 since May 10. Their starting rotation remains successful despite injuries to Nathan Eovaldic and Garrett Whitlocktheir offense is now unofficially the best in baseball, and the bullpen finally has some order in it Tanner Houck at closer.

As of Monday in Toronto, none of this matters. A new season begins and it is the season that will reveal the most about their willingness to compete.

The Red Sox open a three-game series against the Blue Jays, then run a gauntlet through the American League East. Twenty of their next 23 games are against the Yankees, Rays and Jays. If the season ended today, all four clubs would be in the playoffs, with New York the No. 1 seed and Boston the No. 1 wild card.

Everything the Red Sox have accomplished in the past six weeks has merely served as positioning. Now the real season begins.

“We know we are good and we have to keep working,” manager Alex Cora told reporters in Cleveland on Sunday after completing the sweep with an 8-3 win. “We have to keep working hard for what we are trying to achieve, but we feel good. Now we are getting ready for Toronto. Obviously they are one of the big boys in the division, but we will be ready for it.”

The days of whether the Red Sox are really good or just feasting on inferior competition should have been answered this month. Going 19-4 is never just a function of the opposition, furthermore, the Red Sox have won series against the Astros, Cardinals and Guardians.

The East, however, represents a different beast. Because of Canada’s vaccine mandates, the Red Sox will have to be without Houck, dynamic leadoff man Jarren Duran and spot starter Kutter Crawford this week. The last time they traveled north of the border without Houck, they lost three out of four, sending their season into a tailspin.

They will try to win the opener behind rookie Connor Seabold, who will be called up to one of the best formations in baseball?† If the recent past is any indication, he may be joining Crawford and right-handed Josh Winckowski as spot starters who perform.

Navigating the ninth inning without Houck could be problematic, although Cora might be tempted to lean on sideways righthander John Schreiber, who helped Matt Strahm out to contribute to a sweep of the Tigers with a rescue last week. Schreiber’s 0.79 ERA ranks seventh among pitchers with at least 20 innings.

Of course it doesn’t matter who pitches where if the attack continues. Cora’s group has settled into a nice pattern of consistent production from at least two of the big boys — Rafael DeversXander Bogaerts, JD Martinez — completed on any given night by members of the supporting cast. Over the weekend, they were Alex Verdugo, who landed a massive go-ahead homer off All-Star Shane Bieber, and Duran, who had six hits and two steals. In other respects it was an RBI machine Trevor Story or catcher Christian Vazquez. Franchy Cordero and Bobby Dalbec have made their presence felt. Infielder Christian Arroyo returned from the COVID roster to launch a leading two-run home run on Friday.

The individual parts may not always surprise you, but together they form an impressive whole. The Red Sox are now second in the American League in runs and could overtake the Yankees at their current pace by the end of the month.

“It’s day and night for the group early in the season,” Cora told reporters. “At the start of the season we swung on a lot of bad pitches, didn’t run, got a lot of strikeouts, didn’t hit the ball hard, and now it’s the complete opposite.”

And now comes the test. The Jays are not the juggernaut many expected, in part due to injuries to their rotation, with southpaw Hyun Jin Ryu out for the season after Tommy John’s surgery and presumed ace Jose Berrios has posted a 5.86 ERA.

The Red Sox are perfectly positioned to capitalize on Toronto’s struggles and send the message that the Yankees may be the league’s league, but Boston is the team no one would want to have in the postseason.

They’re also nowhere near as destructive as predicted, with MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who went through one of the worst months of his career in May before returning to his expected levels in June. Guerrero chases more throws off the plate than ever and for a while he hits almost all of them on the ground where he can do no damage. His OPS of 1,001 this month suggests he has made the necessary adjustments.

The Jays have gotten a massive production from sophomore catcher Alejandro Kirk and a solid if unspectacular season from George Springer, but they’re basically looking at the league average production from All-Stars Matt Chapman, Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernandez.

The Red Sox are perfectly positioned to capitalize on Toronto’s struggles and send the message that the Yankees may be the league’s league, but Boston is the team no one would want to have in the postseason.

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