The Boston Red Sox were supposed to be in a transition period after finishing last in the American League East in 2020.
However, a few breakout performances, some shrewd signings and acquisitions by general manager Chaim Bloom, and having one of the very best managers in MLB have kept them competitive all year long.
They held the top spot in the East for a long time, but have ceded ground to the objectively better Tampa Bay Rays lately.
Right now, before Friday’s games, the Red Sox are 88-65, six games behind the Rays in the division.
Boston holds the first AL Wild Card spot, two games ahead of the owners of the second WC seed: the New York Yankees.
The Toronto Blue Jays are also lurking, a game behind the Yankees, and one of the three teams will be left out of the postseason.
When the Yankees caught the Red Sox in the standings a few weeks ago (during their 13-game winning streak) and just as the Blue Jays started to surge, too, it looked like Boston would be the one left out in the race.
But that was a mistake.
The Red Sox Are Streaking
The Red Sox are also surging after a bit of a cold streak.
Boston is 8-2 in its last 10 games, and has an ongoing seven-game winning streak as they enter a crucial weekend.
While the Red Sox’s streak of victories is not as long as the St. Louis Cardinals’, or as the one the Yankees had from mid to late-August, it came at the perfect time.
The Yankees never really fell out of the race, and the Blue Jays started winning a lot games recently, too.
Boston has held on impressively.
The Red Sox’s excellent form coincides with three important players’ performances.
Trade acquisition Kyle Schwarber is really raking for the Red Sox.
He is slashing .304/.407/.696 with two homers and nine RBI in his last seven games, all Red Sox victories.
Chris Sale, who missed most of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in 2020, is also dealing on the mound.
The left-hander has started seven games since coming off the injured list, and is 5-0 with a 2.57 ERA.
He has struck out 39 hitters in 35 innings and has filled the role of ace that the team needed so badly.
A Breakout Star
And young slugger Bobby Dalbec, who had been known for his contact issues, has taken a step forward.
Bobby Dalbec has 5 HR in his last 8 games. pic.twitter.com/H45PT0QH1I
— Red Sox (@RedSox) September 18, 2021
Dalbec is hitting .350/.480/.800 with two homers and a 4/5 BB/K ratio in his last seven games.
His uptick in performance is not recent: it has been sustained for a considerable number of games by now.
He is slashing .300/.386/.740 in his last 15 contests and .293/.381/.685 in his last 30, with nine homers and 24 RBI.
The weekend will likely decide the Red Sox’s 2021 fate, as they will host the Yankees for a three-game set at Fenway Park.
— Clay Smith (@claysmith79) September 24, 2021
If the Red Sox are swept, they could really jeopardize their playoff chances, but if they sweep or win the series, they could leave their bitter rivals on the brink of elimination.
With the way they are playing, the Red Sox may or may not get into the postseason, but if they lose, they will go down fighting.