With star-studded opponents and a shrinking number of games remaining, many looked at the Red Sox’ 10-game road trip as a make-or-break voyage. Heck, many said just the first four games in New York would be the difference between playoffs and premature planning for offseason vacations.
With a 5-5 excursion under their belt the Sox’ deficit in the American League East is identical to where it was 10 days ago. They actually gained a half-game in the wild card race while on the road. Of course, there are now 10 fewer games with which to make some gains, but this trip was never about racing into first place, but more about keeping their heads above water. Nothing more, nothing less.
If you want a make-or-break scenario look no further than Boston’s nine-game homestand, which begins Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and carries with it a golden opportunity to load up on wins.
"Hopefully the homestand will ignite us a little bit," said Bill Hall, who had three home runs and seven RBIs on the trip.
In addition to the Angels, the Red Sox will host Seattle and Toronto. They are 18-5 against the trio, 11 games above .500 at home overall and will be coming off their first day off after a season-high 17 games in a row. They’ll rest, recover and then hopefully get on a roll.
Oh yeah, Boston will also have its former MVP Dustin Pedroia back in the fold, no small development for a team that has made a season of waiting on injured All-Stars. Pedroia, out since the end of June with a broken left foot, will be activated and in the lineup Tuesday night.
Essentially, over the next nine days it will be time to make hay. Even Pedroia, speaking from Pawtucket after the second of his two rehab games, is aware of the situation.
“We’re trying to win games,” he said. “I don’t really care how I do, as long as we win.”
The road trip was filled with such incredible highs and lows that it is somewhat difficult to assess it on a grand scale. There was the opening victory in New York behind a stellar Clay Buchholz and the first of two clutch efforts by Jon Lester three days later that helped Boston gain a split against the Yankees.
The Sox had a rare cakewalk in Toronto on Wednesday with a 10-1 victory, only to follow it up with consecutive walk-off losses. Lester’s second clutch performance came Saturday night in the Texas heat, but the club wilted just hours later while facing Red Sox killer C.J. Wilson in the finale of the road trip.
Put it all together and it was a mixed bag that cannot be judged in full until a little later in the season. More specifically, after nine days at Fenway Park.
After having survived a harrowing road trip the Red Sox have just 43 games remaining, but 24 of them are at home. For the last 15 at Fenway Park to mean anything, the next nine will have to yield success.