By Dan Roche, WBZ-TV SportsBy Dan Roche

BOSTON (CBS) – As the Red Sox head down the stretch here are some thoughts on a team that we saw “stay afloat” over their 16 of 19 monster road stretch:

— We’ve watched Jon Lester return to form in the second half.  In seven starts, he’s 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA and looks extremely confident on the mound. It seems the extra rest he was given at the break really helped, and I would try to do that as much as possible down the stretch. Maybe use six starters for a turn or two when Clay Buchholz returns.

— Speaking of Buchholz, don’t make much of his first rehab start in Lowell, when Clay couldn’t get out of the first inning. He’s just trying to get back his feel of being in the mound in a game. When healthy, he never struggles, so if he feels good that should translate into good stuff in September.

— One last tidbit on Buchholz and the Sox: The Globe’s Peter Abraham noted that when Buchholz made his last start – June 8th – the Sox were 1-1/2 games up in the AL East. And, when they began play on August 27th, the Sox lead in the AL East? 1-1/2 games.

Abraham on Toucher & Rich: Buchholz’s Shaky Start Not A Concern

— As Christopher Smith of the Eagle-Tribune pointed out, Mike Napoli has some interesting career numbers in August and September. If he can manage what sounds like the most painful injury in plantar fasciitis he can be a difference-maker like he was in April and May.

Napoli career August: .239 BA/.342 OBP/.423 Slg/.765 OPS

Napoli career September: .293 BA/.386 OBP/.614 Slg/1.000 OPS

— Great to see the next big thing in Xander Bogaerts make his major league debut. The Sox thinking was that he was coming up in September anyways, so why not now? The 20-year-old seems to have a great demeanor.

— The question with Bogaerts is if he gets hot with the bat, especially vs LHP’s, do you make it a platoon at shortstop with Drew? Hard not to head that way.

— It’s nice to see Will Middlebrooks back up and producing. It’s tough to watch these kids come up, see almost nothing but fastballs until they prove they can hit it. Then they face nothing but off-speed stuff until they prove they can hit that. It’s taken Middlebrooks a while but he’s getting there.

Read: More From Dan Roche

— If I’m Ben Cherington I continue to watch the waiver wire for pitching — especially relief help. You can never have enough, especially in September.

–Lastly, it’s amazing how almost every team fighting for playoff spots has nearly identical records — ALL of them.

The World Series is up for grabs, which should make for a very exciting September and October.

Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter @RochieWBZ.


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