BOSTON (CBS) — To make the playoffs in baseball, you need to tread water against the best teams and rack up victories against the worst teams. The Red Sox are having no problem with the first part, but the latter part is giving them fits.
Things weren’t all that bad for the Red Sox until this current West Coast trip, which has seen them go 2-4 thus far against the Mariners (35-48) and A’s (40-42). The Sox did outscore the Mariners 9-5 in the four-game set but could only muster a split against a team with a minus-28 run differential on the year.
The 2-4 record thus far, which has included three walk-off losses, drops the Red Sox’ record against teams with losing records down to 21-15 on the season. It’s not a horrible mark, but it’s simply not going to be enough if this team hopes to sniff October.
“We’re sputtering a little bit,” manager Bobby Valentine said after Tuesday night’s loss in Oakland. “We’re not stringing hits together. We will [Wednesday].”
Ah, but will they? And will it be too little too late?
To be fair, the Red Sox have handled themselves just fine against some of the worse teams in baseball. They’re 5-1 against the lowly Marlins and 3-0 against the Twins, however they’re now 1-4 against the A’s, 1-2 against the Royals and 3-4 against the underachieving Tigers. It may not seem horrific, but if the Sox had gone, say, a combined 10-5 against those teams instead of 5-10, they’d be sitting alone in second place in the AL East, 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees heading into this weekend’s series at Fenway. They’d also hold sole possession of the top wild card spot.
But the fact is they don’t, and there’s nothing else to point at other than their performance against the league’s bad teams. Against teams with winning records, the Red Sox are 21-24, a mark that leaves some room for improvement but all things considered (especially injuries) is understandable. Normally, staying around .500 against the good teams is enough, but you need to dominate the games you should be dominating. Look back to 2009, when the Red Sox went 16-2 against the Orioles (64-98), 7-2 against the Indians (65-97) and 11-7 against the Blue Jays (75-87). The year before, the Red Sox went 12-6 against the Orioles (68-93), 6-1 against the Royals (75-87) and 9-1 against the Rangers (79-83), dominant showings that allowed them to withstand a 1-8 record against the Angels. This year, they haven’t given themselves that same type of insurance, and they’re running out of time to get it.
For the Red Sox, the good news (if you want to call it that) is that they’ll be facing plenty of winning teams in July. They’ll face the Yankees, Rays, White Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers and Yankees again before they see another team with a losing record. It’s a positive that they’ve played decently against those teams thus far, but because they’ve not played to their potential against the bad teams, it’s now a necessity for the Red Sox to come out of July with a winning record. Their season depends on it.