BOSTON — It was the schedule from hell that was supposed to do the Red Sox in.
On the morning of July 28, Boston sat in third place in the American League East, 2 1/2 games behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles. Ahead of the club was a brutal 43-game stretch that included 31 road contests, 17 of which were on the West Coast.
Fast forward to Monday at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox enter a matchup with those same Orioles holding a two-game lead in the AL East. Boston posted an impressive 25-18 record over that span, punctuated Sunday by a rousing 11-8 win over the Blue Jays in Toronto.
“Hey, we fight,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz told NESN’s Guerin Austin after Sunday’s victory. “We never give in. We keep on fighting.”
The Red Sox’s road trip wasn’t perfect, of course. Boston continued to struggle in close games — it entered Monday with a 16-21 record in one-run games — in large part due to a shaky bullpen that has hardly any defined roles outside closer Craig Kimbrel. Both are ominous signs for any team eyeing a postseason push.
Yet here the Red Sox are with 20 games remaining in the regular season: 10 at home, 10 on the road, all against AL East opponents. And manager John Farrell believes the team’s success on its recent road trip is a sign that it has the mettle to deliver down the stretch.
“With each passing trip, there’s been a further gelling of this team, a further closeness or unity that evolves,” Farrell said before Monday’s game. “… The way we responded to (Sunday’s) game was kind of an example or snapshot of the way each road trip has gone. And this is the next challenge: What do we have to do to fight through it? So, everyone’s bought in.”
It’s worth noting the Red Sox’s roster is filled with young players who have little to no experience being in a pennant race; only nine players from Boston’s 2013 World Series team are on the current roster. But there still are two very notable holdovers from that squad — Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia — who can act as mentors for the young guns.
“They’re now providing that example for Mookie (Betts), for (Xander Bogaerts), for (Andrew) Benintendi and (Yoan) Moncada,” Farrell said of Ortiz and Pedroia. “So, as their time comes, they’ll be the ones that pass on that leadership and the baton.”
The Red Sox have a tough final stretch ahead of them, but they’re in prime position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2013. For now, though, Boston is adopting the same mindset that helped the team get to this point.
“Our approach has been much like we’ve been through the road trips,” Farrell added. “We don’t care when, we don’t care where, or what time, or who we’re playing. We’re going to go play. So, I don’t think even the thought of October has entertained our guys. We know that we have a tough stretch ahead, and all of our focus is on (Monday).”
Thumbnail photo via Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports Images