By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Despite dropping two straight games to start this week, the Boston Red Sox remain one of the best teams in all of baseball. Their 49 victories puts them just one win shy of Houston for the most in the majors, and they’re still poised to stay neck-and-neck with the Yankees for the duration of the season in what will certainly be a tightly contested AL East divisional race.
Yet, for whatever reason, against the inferior AL Central, the Red Sox have been … bad.
Well, more accurately, they’ve been mediocre. But for a team that’s supposed to be among the best in the league, they should be racking up victories against a division where four of five teams are under .500.
Instead, they’re now 0-2 against the Twins, who entered this week’s series with a 31-37 record.
They are 1-2 against the White Sox after dropping a series at Fenway. The White Sox are a dreadful 24-49 on the year.
The Red Sox did go 2-1 against the Royals, who own the AL’s second-worst record at 22-52, and they went 2-1 against the Tigers, who are 36-39. But overall and without even having played first-place Cleveland, the Red Sox are 5-6 against four AL Central teams that are a combined 62 games under .500.
Baseball is, of course, baseball, and such anomalies happen quite often without any great explanation. And the Red Sox have made up for some of that underperformance; they’ve absolutely beaten up on the Orioles and Rays, going 18-5 against those divisional opponents with 15 games remaining against them. If you look at it one way, you could say that the Red Sox should be maybe 15-8 against the Orioles and Rays and should be 8-3 against those bad AL Central teams, so it all kind of evens out.
There would be some truth to that, but the final standings at the end of the season won’t care much about what the Red Sox should be. They’re doing what they should be doing against the better teams in the AL, going 3-3 vs. the Yankees, 2-2, vs. the Astros, 2-2 vs. the Mariners, and 3-0 vs. the Angels. They also went 2-1 vs. the first-place Braves. With records like that against the best teams in baseball, they should be able to top 100 wins for the first time since the 1940s if they can just beat up on the middling-to-awful teams. But outside of their division, they haven’t done that.
If you want to compare resumes to the Yankees, you’d find some difference. The Yankees, for example, are 5-2 vs. Houston. The Yankees also have played just 12 games combined vs. Baltimore and Tampa Bay, compared to the Red Sox’ 23 games against the same two teams. If the Yankees find similar success (they’re 8-4 thus far in those games), then you’d have to figure they’re due for a high number of easy divisional wins going forward. The Yankees have also dominated the AL Central, going 3-0 vs. Cleveland, 2-1 vs. Detroit, 2-1 vs. Kansas City and 4-0 vs. Minnesota for a combined record of 11-2. That’s how a top team should be performing against a division as weak as the AL Central, and right now it stands as the two-game difference separating Boston and New York in the standings.
All that will matter at the end of the year is the number in the wins column, and if it’s even one lower than the Yankees, then the Red Sox will find themselves in a one-game playoff, likely against Seattle, where one bad inning could flush their whole season down the toilet in a tidy span of three hours.
That’s not what the Red Sox are working toward, and it’s why they’re going to want to start taking advantage of these games against the lesser teams in the American League.