Here are three keys to taking care of business in Seattle.
Boston is 20-30 at Safeco Field since the start of 2001, winning a season series in Seattle just once in that span. While the clubs split a four-game series in the Jet City back in July, it felt as if the Sox had dropped another one.
The Mariners rallied from a five-run deficit in the opener to force extra innings (the Sox won in 13) and then came from behind to frustrate the visitors and take the last two games of the set.
Seattle has had some pretty bad teams this decade while Boston has always been good. That hasn't mattered much when the teams meet in Safeco.
Both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz need to be looking ahead and not behind. If they do the latter they won't like what they see.
Matsuzaka snapped a string of four straight starts where he allowed exactly four runs by allowing twice that many in a critical game against Tampa Bay six days ago. He lasted just 4 2/3 innings in what resulted in a 14-5 loss at Fenway Park.
Buchholz fared even worse, if that's possible, in an outing at Oakland on Friday. He gave up five runs on five hits and four walks in just one inning, the shortest start of his career that did not involve an injury.
On paper Boston has the pitching edge in all three games. But only if Matsuzaka and Buchholz have a short memory.
You Never Know
The Rays and Yankees are not in an absolute free-fall just yet but they are playing some pretty poor baseball. It is very unlikely that Boston makes a charge for a playoff position but the teams it is chasing do not resemble those that built the best records in baseball earlier in the year. Also, recent history suggests that anything is possible — Minnesota went 16-4 down the stretch to erase a slightly smaller deficit and take the AL Central crown last year.
To provide further perspective, consider this: the Mariners were not officially eliminated from the American League West race until Saturday despite being eliminated from our consciousness in May.
Tampa Bay plays seven of its next 10 games against New York, including four at Yankee Stadium next week. The Rays have dropped five of eight and the Yankees are 1-6 in the last week.
If one of those two teams continues to struggle and the Sox put together four or five wins at some point the mood might change. Remember, Boston and New York still play six times.
Again, you never know.
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