The Red Sox will enter the unofficial second half of the season with the best record in the American League at 58-39 and leading the American League East by 2.5 games over the Rays. Not many people would have believed this going into the season given the team was coming off a horrid 69-win campaign in 2012.
As 2013 has gone on many have been waiting for the Red Sox to fall off, but that has yet to have happened. One of the biggest tests for this year’s group will come immediately out of the gate following the All-Star break with 10 straight games against AL East opponents in the Yankees, Rays and Orioles beginning Friday night against the Yanks (7:10, NESN) at Fenway Park.
"There's a lot more games left to be played," Farrell told reporters in Oakland where the Red Sox ended their first half. "We have a tough schedule ahead of us. We've got probably more than half of the games we play against teams with above .500 records. ... We're going to get back into our division. It's deep, strong. And we're looking forward to getting off the West Coast, I can tell you that, and looking forward to getting back to Fenway Park and playing a lot of games there."
Fortunately for the Red Sox, they will play seven of those 10 games and 13 of their next 16 at the friendly confines of Fenway Park. At home this season the Sox are 31-16, which is the third-best home record in all of major league baseball and second in the American League.
These next 10 games will say a lot about this year’s Red Sox team with their next three opponents being the three teams chasing them for first place in the AL East and all three within striking distance. While the Rays are 2.5 games out, the Orioles are 4.5 and despite all of the Yankees injuries they remain in the hunt, six games behind.
So far this season the Red Sox are 23-15 against AL East opponents, including a 9-3 record against the Rays. They have struggled against the Orioles as they are just 2-5 against them on the year. If the Red Sox can come out of this stretch still on top of the AL East they will solidify themselves as serious playoff contenders, something they haven’t done since 2009.
Just making the playoffs shouldn’t satisfy the Red Sox, as they are after a division title. Playing in a one-game wild card playoff under MLB's new playoff rules is one risky consolation prize.
Leading the AL East at the All-Star break is not unfamiliar territory for Boston as it has led at this point in the year seven of last nine seasons. But actually winning the division has proven difficult as of those seven times they’ve led, only once have they captured the division crown. Getting off to a good start to begin the second half and extending their lead in the division would do wonders to break their trend of not being able to close.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84