BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Red Sox are 73-46 through their first 119 games. That’s good enough for the best record in the American League and second-best in all of MLB to Philadelphia.

All good, but now they face their biggest test of the season.

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The Red Sox continue, what I think, is their most difficult stretch of their 2011 season.

It began with three games in Seattle, a place that can be tough to play in. Seattle is 31-30 at Safeco field. The Sox didn’t play poorly in dropping two of three, but they weren’t great either. The offense proved again that it can score in bunches, but it needs to be more consistent. The defense was OK, but needs to be better. You can’t have little mistakes like Jed Lowrie not touching second base on a routine force play at second. The little things are huge on the road. Meanwhile, the pitching was OK too, but John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and Tim Wakefield each had one bad inning that cost them. I give them all credit for overcoming those tough innings, but, it cost Beckett and Wakefield.

Losing two of three to Seattle isn’t something to panic about, but it marks the beginning of a tough stretch.

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The Sox face Tampa Bay in a day/night doubleheader Tuesday and then a single game Wednesday. Tampa is trotting out it’s best starting pitching in James Shields, Jeff Niemann, and David Price. It’s always tough to sweep a doubleheader to begin with. It’s certainly a big challenge.

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After the three with Tampa at Fenway, it’s back out on the road. Four in Kansas City and four more in Texas. The Royals can be dangerous at home and we all saw how the Sox opened the season in Texas.

Now it doesn’t hurt that the Sox will trot out Jon Lester, Erik Bedard, and Lackey against Tampa, but they still will have their hands full with Joe Maddon’s Rays.

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After a blistering July, they are just 7-6 in August. The Yankees are just 1/2 game behind them in the fight for the AL East crown. And, even though I have always been one of those guys that feels you need to simply get one of the four playoff spots each year, this time around it would be nice to see the Sox gain home field advantage through the ALCS. They are simply a dangerous offensive machine at Fenway.

So get ready folks. We will know a lot more about the 2011 Boston Red Sox in 10 days than we know now.

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Enjoy the ride…