The Boston Red Sox have been surprisingly good in the first two months of the 2021 MLB season.
They are competing toe to toe with the Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays for the top spot in the American League East.
They have a chance, just like the competition, to make the postseason, but they will need to overcome a few obstacles.
3. The AL East
If they want to compete for a playoff spot, the Red Sox’s chances will increase significantly if they manage to top at least one of the Rays and Yankees in the final standings.
Of course, taking the division would guarantee a spot in October baseball, but the East remains one of the toughest ones to win, with the Blue Jays also fighting for a postseason spot.
Before Thursday’s matinee against the Houston Astros, Boston had a 32-23 record, 2.0 games behind the Rays, 1.5 ahead of the Yankees, and 2.5 above the Jays.
The division will be hotly contested, likely until September, and all four squads have what it takes to make a run at the playoffs.
The Red Sox are a season-high 12 games above .500 (32-20).
They are unbeaten in their last 5 series (4-0-1) and 7-2 in their last 9 games.
They own the AL’s 2nd-best record, tied for 3rd-best in MLB.
AL East Top 3:
1. Rays (33-20)
2. Red Sox (32-20)
3. Yankees (29-23)
— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) May 29, 2021
2. Pitching Issues
The Red Sox’s offense remains one of the best in Major League Baseball.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Red Sox’s offense was sixth in runs scored in the league, with 271.
However, the pitching was kind of mediocre, at least for a team that wants to advance to the postseason and shut down top lineups.
The Red Sox have the 15th best ERA for starting pitchers, at 4.15.
No pitcher has performed with an ace profile: instead, Boston has relied on four dependable, reliable pitchers.
The weak link, so far, was among the strongest in the past few years: Eduardo Rodriguez.
E-Rod has struggled to a 5.64 ERA, although his 3.70 Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, indicates that better days are ahead.
To qualify for the postseason, Boston will have to either find another top starter in the deadline or hope that Chris Sale makes it back and contributes his usual elite innings.
Sale is one of the top pitchers in the AL when healthy, but underwent Tommy John surgery last spring and is still rehabbing.
He is expected back in the summer, and if he returns pitching like his usual dominant self, Boston will have a chance to fend off the competition.
Chaim Bloom update on Chris Sale, via @MLBNetworkRadio: “He’s been off the mound a number of times. We’re slowly increasing the length and intensity . . . He’s going to push us to join this group as soon as possible. It will be sometime later in the summer.” @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) May 31, 2021
The bullpen, which has the 11th best ERA in MLB with 3.70, can also use another piece or two.
1. Avoid A Chris Sale Setback
As it happens with all contenders, health is something that they need if they want to make a deep run and fight for the title.
As far as the Boston Red Sox concern, the health of Sale will likely be what makes or break their season.
The lanky left-hander can be the ace that the staff badly needs if he comes back fully healthy and quickly finds his form.
Other than Sale, the Red Sox don’t have another major injury to deal with.
However, it’s crucial that remains the case if they have any intentions of fending off the Rays, Jays, and Yankees.