Joe Maddon’s Managerial Magic Makes Rays the Biggest Challenge for Playoff-Hopeful Red Sox in Final Stretch

Joe MaddonIt’s nearing September in Major League Baseball, and that means a playoff push for the Red Sox. Boston is happy to be in the postseason race after last August’s slide, but the final weeks of the season are filled with challenges. None of those challenges are bigger than the other teams in the American League East who are also vying for playoff spots, including the always-dangerous Tampa Bay Rays.

The Red Sox have 21 games remaining against AL East foes out of the 29 games left this season. Just three of those games are against the Rays, who have been the Red Sox’ biggest challengers atop the division for most of the season. Let’s look at that and more in this week’s mailbag.

How do you feel about the Rays? Wild card or more?
– Sean Malaney

I think the Rays are the Sox’ No. 1 concern. I knew their pitching was going to be great, but I did not count on their offense being as good as it has been. I think every year, you can just go ahead and make Joe Maddon a candidate for manager of the year. It does not seem to matter who is on the roster. It is going to make this September one heck of a fun month of baseball.

What do you think the outlook for the Red Sox will be playoff-wise?
– Eric Morin

Just gotta get in. Anything can happen. I like the pitching staff in a playoff series. I like the battle-tested veterans, position player-wise. I like the Red Sox’ chances against anybody we have seen in 2013. A lot has been made of the chemistry on this club and how it equates to winning baseball. I think playoff baseball may be where it is most important, and this team has plenty of players with postseason experience.

Why doesn’t John Lackey ever get run support?
– Nathan Marzoli

It’s just one of those things. There’s always one guy who does not seem to get any assistance when it comes to runs. It is amazing as I find myself saying the same thing over and over again when he pitches: “His record is not indicative of the way he has pitched this season.” But it is the truth. He has been outstanding and does not have the record to show for it. Friday night in L.A. is the perfect example.

What is the difference between this year’s Sox team and last year’s team?
– @luckyspecs7

The players. It seems like a simple answer, but the changes Ben Cherington made during the offseason to build this team were not highly publicized but were amazing choices, as it turned out. I don’t think Ben has received the credit that he should for the success of the Sox. It all started with the trade with the Dodgers.

What do you think of Dodger Stadium?
– Aaron RedSox Vinatieri

As the third-oldest stadium in the majors, it is outstanding and incredibly clean. They have done a great job of keeping it up and recently have added many behind-the-scenes additions to the clubhouses, etc., to bring it up to speed. Great place, and I really enjoyed the series. Dodger Dogs remain my favorite hot dogs — besides Fenway Franks, of course.

How did you meet Vin Scully?
– Hector Rafael ‏

In 1989, I was the Red Sox’ radio intern and in college at Northeastern University when he came to Fenway Park as part of the NBC game of the week crew. He came in to visit with Joe Castiglione and Ken Coleman. That’s where that photo came from.

What is Vin Scully’s most memorable quote?
– Fran Irish

Dennis Eckersley is not going to like this, but my favorite call of his is maybe the Kirk Gibson home run call in the World Series. The amazing thing is that two announcers I think nailed it on the same play — the late great Jack Buck and Scully at the same time. This is not a discussion Eck and I will have.

Why is the ball thrown out if a pitch hits the dirt but isn’t on a ball hit on the ground? Makes no sense to me.
– Scott Nutting

It is tough to figure out. I am amazed by how many balls are tossed out of games. I know the reasoning is based on scuffed balls and giving pitchers an advantage. I wonder how many are used in a game. I don’t have answer for you but agree it is confusing.

Yardbarker

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 190,837 other followers