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The Week Ahead: History stacked against Red Sox comeback

Aug 2, 2010, 1:54 AM EDT

Despite sitting in third place in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox appear to be in pretty good shape.

Riding a two-game winning streak, they enter the week just 6 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees, and 5 1/2 behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL wild card spot – with no teams in between.

In addition, Josh Beckett has pitched well since his return from a two-month stint on the disabled list, and Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek could all return within the next couple of weeks.

Add to that the possibility – if remote – of adding help in a post-deadline trade of Jeremy Hermida and/or Mike Lowell, and the Sox should be stocked up to make a run in the final six weeks of the season.

But despite all these positive signs, ESPN researcher Jeremy Lundblad writes that history shows it is likely too little, too late.

Can the Red Sox turn the tides? It will likely take a historic final two months – one that recalls the imagery of nicknamed seasons of the past.

Soon to be fully healthy for the first time in nearly four months, the real 2010 Red Sox have fewer than 60 games to catch fire. That is, if they manage to stay healthy.

According to Lundblad, the Red Sox have never made the playoffs when facing an Aug. 1 deficit of more than two games, and have only made the playoffs four times in their history when facing any deficit at all this late in the season.

The most recent was in 2004, when the Red Sox were one game behind Texas in the AL wild card race entering August. That team was aided by the trade of Nomar Garciaparra, which netted key components in Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz. This year, Boston’s big deadline move was to deal for once-promising catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who could realize his potential at some point in the future but for now will be stashed in Pawtucket.

Apparently, Theo Epstein is content to wait for the return of the players mentioned above, and he could be right. But that won’t solve the team’s bullpen woes, including the implosion of left-hander Hideki Okajima. Even Jonathan Papelbon has been less reliable than usual, having already blown five saves and sporting an ERA at a career-worst 3.05.

So the odds are against a Boston rally, but if they are going to make a run, this would be an excellent week to start it. The Red Sox host the lowly Cleveland Indians for four games to start the week, then head to the Bronx for four more against the Yankees, a perfect opportunity to make up ground.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Mets at Braves, Aug. 2-4:
The Mets aren’t out of it yet, but this week – with six games against the top two teams in the division – could just about do them in if they continue to struggle.

Twins at Rays, Aug. 2-5: A huge four-game series for both teams, as the Twins are 1/2-game back in the Central and the Rays just one game back in the East. Touted prospect Jeremy Hellickson makes his major league debut for the Rays on Monday against Carl Pavano.

Padres at Dodgers, Aug. 2-5: If the new-look Dodgers are going to make a run, this four-game series is a great place to start. Ted Lilly makes his first start in a Dodgers uniform on Tuesday.

Mets at Phillies, Aug. 6-8: Wouldn’t the Phillies love to simultaneously bury their rivals and gain some ground on the Braves? Wouldn’t the Mets love to play spoiler and act like they still have a chance? This could be a juicy one.

Red Sox at Yankees, Aug. 6-9: It’s the mother of all baseball rivalries, even if the Earth ceases to rotate and neither team is in first place by the time they meet for this four-game series. For Boston, it’s now or never.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Mets at Braves (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.: White Sox at Tigers (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Red Sox at Yankees (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Rangers at Athletics (FOX)
Sunday, 1:30 p.m.: Giants at Braves (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Red Sox at Yankees (ESPN)
*Check local listings

And for those of you who have asked for a schedule of MLB Network games, you may find that here.

Are you on Twitter? You can follow Bob here, and get all your HBT updates here.

  1. 1Houligan - Aug 2, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    As a die hard member of Red Sox Nation, I love these guys no matter what. We’ve had so many downs and victories that rocked this city (Boston) to its core. They are endeared in this city.

  2. 1Houligan - Aug 2, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    As a die hard member of Red Sox Nation, I love these guys no matter what. We’ve had so many downs and victories that rocked this city (Boston) to its core. They are endeared in this city.

  3. Pisano - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    Don’t count on a comeback , too many injuries , overrated pitching (so called run prevention defense) and not enough time left to catch two superior teams . They were picked third , and it looks like the sports writers were correct .

  4. CommonNow - Aug 2, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    That the Sox would miss the playoffs was evident in January. Any Sox fan can tell you this story is unessecary. Look to 2013, and some new wisdom in the Box, before the Sox have a chance to compete for it all again.

  5. Jack Marshall - Aug 2, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    Really silly article. The “Red Sox” are a franchise, not a constant entity. Many teams have made the play-offs after being out more than a few games in August—the fact that the Red Sox haven’t is just a fluke. The “odds” against the Red Sox are the same as the odds aganist any team in the same situation. Every season is different.
    The team has hung in extremely well despite never having its rotation and line-up healthy at the same time; when it is, the team is stronger than the Rays and probably the Yankees too, even with the shaky middle relief.

  6. The Real Shuxion - Aug 2, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    If the Sox sweep the Yankees and go 15-5 in their next 20 there is a chance they get in. No sweep of NY and/or going worse than 15-5 in the next 20 and us Sox fans can focus on the Patriots in October while the players get in some rounds of Golf at Pebble Beach.

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