The American League East has surprised many fans as one of the deepest divisions in MLB this season.
The Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and New York Yankees all have legitimate playoff aspirations.
Right now, the Rays have a three-game lead over the second-place Red Sox for the top spot in the division.
But there are a few reasons why Boston might actually have the edge over Tampa Bay in the AL East this season.
Let’s get into it.
3. The Red Sox Swept The Rays In Their First Head-To-Head Series
The Red Sox swept the Rays in a three-game set in early April.
In fact, they dominated that series.
Boston posted a plus-17 run differential in that series, marking the only time the Rays have been swept this season.
The two teams will play 16 more times this season, and if their first matchup was any indication, Boston could do some serious damage in the remaining head-to-head games.
2. Boston Has The Offensive Advantage
The Red Sox and Rays have two of the most prolific offenses in baseball.
Boston ranks fifth in the league at 4.97 runs per game while Tampa Bay ranks sixth at 4.94.
That’s a razor-thin margin, but when you dig a little deeper, the Red Sox are the superior offensive team in some other major categories, too.
Boston has a team OPS of .748 while Tampa Bay has a team OPS of .711.
Boston has a team batting average of .254 while Tampa Bay has a team batting average of .231.
Boston has 230 extra-base-hits on the year while Tampa Bay has just 198.
At the end of the day, the amount of runs you push across is the only stat that matters, but these complementary statistics are often an indication of what the future may hold for an offense.
PARTY AT OUR PLACE! pic.twitter.com/M7BSWDmtGI
— Red Sox (@RedSox) June 12, 2021
1. The Red Sox Have Managed To Stay Within 3 Games Of The Rays Despite Being Without Their Best Starting Pitcher
In case you forgot, the Red Sox are expected to get Chris Sale back this summer after missing him for the entire 2020 season, and he’s going have something to say about this division race.
Chris Sale is throwing off the mound at Fenway now. pic.twitter.com/cVPsKpw9DU
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) June 11, 2021
You never know how a veteran player is going to bounce back from a major surgery (in Sale’s case, Tommy John surgery), but if he is even 75 percent of the player he used to be, the Red Sox will be getting a huge boost upon his return.
Sale is a seven-time All-Star who finished in the top-six of the MVP race every season from 2012 to 2018.
During that span, he led the league in strikeouts twice, FIP twice, and ERA+ once.
He posted an overall ERA of 2.91 over that seven-season sample size.
There is no denying Sale’s greatness, but it now becomes a question of whether he’s still got it.
It’ll be interesting to see how he fits into a Boston rotation which is full of overachieving arms.
It seems likely that one of the current starters will get moved to the bullpen, but that’s a problem that the Red Sox are happy to have.