While we have a long way to go, it certainly seems like the Red Sox are going to be a legitimate World Series threat this year.
The Red Sox are going to win the World Series.
— Lucy Burdge (@LucilleBurdge) July 10, 2021
Their season comes as a major surprise to many, as most preseason projections expected Boston to hover around .500 in 2021.
Instead, the club finds itself in the hunt for its fifth title since 2004.
If the Red Sox ultimately do represent the AL in this year’s Fall Classic, which National League teams could pose the biggest challenges for Boston?
This is different from merely ranking the best teams in the NL.
Rather, as it pertains specifically to the Red Sox, which NL clubs match up with Boston in a way where they’d be able to prey on Boston’s weaknesses?
San Francisco Giants
Like the Red Sox, the San Francisco Giants weren’t supposed to contend in the 2021.
Yet, with the All-Star break upon us, San Fran finds itself atop a very difficult NL West division.
The Giants are capable of posing challenges for a variety of reasons, but one stands out above the rest: their ability to win at home.
This is notable because the Red Sox owe much of their success this season to their ability to win on the road.
Boston’s 27-17 road record is good for a .614 win percentage, and that’s the best such mark in all of baseball this year.
But the Red Sox might be hard-pressed to sustain that success in a potential series against the Giants, who are 30-13 (.698) at home this season.
The Giants currently have the best overall record in the Majors, meaning that, if the season ended today and they made it to the World Series, they’d have home-field advantage.
There’s still a long way to go, but this could be a bad formula for the Red Sox.
If Boston’s road success gets neutralized by the Giants’ home success, then the outcome of the series could become dependent on the way the Red Sox protect their home field.
And for much of this 2021 season, the team has struggled to do so.
San Diego Padres
Boston’s overall formula for success is pretty simple: Score four-plus runs then reap the benefits.
The Red Sox are 43-4 this season when scoring 4+ runs. pic.twitter.com/9t7uXKzPE3
— 🏈 BelieveInBostonSports.com ⚽🏒⚾🏀 (@AnthonyCris_nte) June 29, 2021
Boston’s pitching staff is just good enough to get the job done when given a little cushion, but what happens when the Red Sox offense becomes hard-pressed to reach that magic number of four runs?
Well, we might find out if the Red Sox have to face the San Diego Padres in the World Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers arguably have a better all-around staff than San Diego, but L.A. is dealing with too many question marks right now.
The Padres don’t have any long-term concerns and are loaded with quality arms in both their rotation and bullpen.
When healthy, San Diego will have the option of rolling with a rotation of Yu Darvish (3.09 ERA), Joe Musgrove (2.93 ERA), Ryan Weathers (2.91 ERA), Dinelson Lamet (3.67 ERA), and Blake Snell (who has a 4.99 ERA on the year, but we all know what he is capable of).
In the postseason, you’re often able to roll with just your four best starters, so the Padres will be in great shape when that time comes.
As far as relief pitching goes, San Diego has the third-best bullpen ERA in baseball at 3.41.
Mark Melancon (2.04 ERA), Craig Stammen (2.89 ERA), Emilio Pagan (3.11 ERA), Tim Hill (2.52 ERA), Austin Adams (1.71 ERA), Nabil Crismatt (3.55 ERA), Pierce Johnson (3.34 ERA), and Miguel Diez (2.30 ERA) are some of the team’s best relievers.
The depth never ends.
It’s easily the team’s greatest asset.
If the Padres get the Red Sox in a series and they’re able to make every game a rock fight, Boston’s average pitching staff could have a really hard time keeping the club in games.