The Red Sox have shaken their troubles from the first half of August. Now, with the month coming to and end, they turn their attention to the final stretch of the regular season, starting with--who else?--the Yankees.
For Yankees, A Must-Win Series?
No matter what the outcome of this week's three-game series against the Yankees, the AL East race will by no means be over. Even a sweep by the Sox would still leave them just over four games up--a gap that can be overcome in a month, if with some difficulty.
But that doesn't make it any less of a must-win for New York.
The Yankees are currently 2-10 against the Red Sox on the year, which is a dominant enough record to make any team doubt their ability to win a postseason series, even were their one sure thing in the rotation not routinely destroyed by the opponent in question.
They won't be winning the season series, that much is clear. And even a sweep would only flip the standings, putting New York up by an entirely vulnerable game-and-a-half. But just having the knowledge that they can beat the Sox in a series can make a significant difference, even for a veteran bunch like this.
For the Red Sox, however, this should just be business as usual, if slightly more intense. They just got finished getting their own monkey off their back in Texas. Now their job is to make sure New York doesn't manage to do the same. The good news is that, so far this year, they're pretty well accustomed to beating the Yankees.
David Ortiz Takes Over Where Adrian Gonzalez Left Off
When last we left them, Adrian Gonzalez had just knocked three homers out of the park in two games, and David Ortiz had just made his return from the walking boot with a 2-for-5 night with a pair of doubles.
The final game of the Rangers series seems to have featured something of a passing of the "hot streak" torch from Gonzalez to Ortiz. Ortiz hit a homer, Gonzo hit two, and since then it's been all Ortiz, with Gonzalez slowing down a bit against Oakland while the designated hitter went 8-for-12 with three doubles and two homers.
Long story short: the Derby is well in the past and we can now all move on with our lives.
Miller Up, Wakefield Down
And suddenly the back end of the rotation has seen a shift in the balance of power.
For Andrew Miller, a dominant outing against Texas was the perfect way to follow up his night in Kansas City, which effectively revived the flagging Miller Experiment. Not only did he hold the Rangers scoreless, using just 83 pitches to get through six innings, but he struck out Mike Napoli twice and put up a hat trick on Josh Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Tim Wakefield can no longer blame his failure to pick up his 200th win on the rest of the Sox. His last two outings have hardly been something to write home about.
Hopefully this situation won't actually prove important in any way. Ideally neither one would sniff a post-season start, and with the six-man rotation seemingly set in stone down the stretch, neither one seems likely to miss out until then. Still, with the fragile Erik Bedard and mediocre John Lackey the current plan, it's worth nothing that Miller seems to have taken the advantage, at least for now.
Xander Bogaerts On The Warpath
There are few prospects whose stock is rising faster than Xander Bogaerts, currently the starting shortstop for the Single-A Greenville Drive.
At just 18 years of age, Bogaerts' presence in the SAL is noteworthy by itself. Born October 1, 1992, Bogaerts ranks amongst the youngest players in the league. This has not stopped him from putting on one of the best power shows at his level, knocking 15 balls out of the park despite having only been promoted to Greenville midway through June, restricting him to just 67 games played. Over the course of a full major league season (150 games, given how the Sox tend to work), that's a 34 home run pace. From a middle infielder.
Bogaerts might not remain at short forever, but if he moves it will be because of added bulk and added power, which he already has in spades.