The Boston Red Sox (60-55) look to double up against the Kansas City Royals (40-74) tonight at Fenway just one day after snapping an eight game losing streak with a (closer than it needed to be) 7-5 win.
Last night went the way it was supposed to, wasn’t it? Jump out to an early lead behind a couple home runs (Travis, 3; Devers, 23) and a quality start from Rick Porcello (10-8). Maybe the bullpen bent a little more than we would have liked it to, but they didn’t break, and that’s something. Yes, I know it’s only Kansas City, but we can at least take heart in (relatively) tidy outings from Eovaldi (1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER) and Workman (1 IP, 1 H, 2 Ks), can’t we? And a save – well, fancy seeing you here, Mr. Crucial Stat that the Red Sox can’t seem to accumulate! And hey, for a day, at least, we don’t have to wonder how much longer their losing streak will last. Yup, they’ve got one down, and if Boston wants to win 90 games, they’ve only got 30 more to go. Time for some wishful thinking.
Let’s be clear – 90 games guarantees the Red Sox precisely nothing, especially the way Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Oakland have been playing of late, but it’s something. Early in the season, following Boston’s abysmal start, I took a look at win-total projections of what it would take to win the AL East. Though those totals (93, 94, and 96 games, respectively) now look either unlikely to win the division or totally out of reach given the number of games that Boston has remaining, 90 games is doable, at least. And it’s not as bad as you might think.
Right now, Boston has 47 games left. To win 90 games, they’d need to go 30-17 the rest of the way, for a .638 win percentage the rest of the way. Seems daunting, but stay with me – let’s start easy – let’s say they take the next two from Kansas City. Boom. Now they only need 28 wins and still have 17 losses to give. Then the Angels come to down, currently scuffling along at 56-58 and 2-8 in their last ten, let’s say they take 3 of four. 25 wins to go, 16 losses to give. Next, they go to Cleveland, and let’s face it, they’ll probably drop 2 out of three at the Jake (I know, I know, it’s Progressive Field now), leaving us with 24 wins to get and only 14 losses left to give. Then back home where they need 2 out of three against the O’s and a split of a two-game set with Philly. 21 wins to go. A road trip to San Diego, Colorado, and Los Angeles rounds out August and begins September, and if they can take two out of three from San Diego, split with Colorado, and take another couple from LA, they’d need only 16 more wins in September and would have 9 losses left to give. 16-9 in September would be a .640 win percentage.
Hooboy. September’s where it gets dicey. First, a three-game set at home against the Twins and then the Yankees come in for the last four games of the season series. No two ways about it, Boston needs 2 of 3 and 3 of 4, respectively, and if they do that, they’d need 11 more wins with 7 losses to go. Then they go up to Toronto for three games and out to Philly for two, and if they win the Toronto series and split at Citizens Bank Park, they’d need 8 more wins the rest of the way. Now, the final 13 games of the season are as follows: three at home against San Francisco, four at Tampa Bay, three at Texas, and three games at home against Baltimore to end the season. Presuming a split at Tampa Bay, Boston would need to win each of the San Francisco, Texas, and Baltimore series. That, or some other combination with the same result, does the trick.
And that’s how the Sox get to 90 wins. Not much margin for error, though a 20-4 stretch like the one they had in 2004 would make things a lot easier. The better question is, does 90 wins guarantee anything to Boston? Nope. But could it get them into the playoffs? Absolutely. And given where Boston would have come from, the playoffs would be an accomplishment in itself.
Tonight, we’re looking at Jakob Junis (6-10) against Andrew Cashner (10-6). Though it’s difficult to be certain which Andrew Cashner will show up, there’s honestly no reason to believe that Boston shouldn’t pound the Royals tonight. In a career 10.2 innings against Boston, Junis has given up 7 ER on 15 hits and 4 BB, good for a 5.91 ERA, and if Cashner’s history against Kansas City holds serve, Boston should win this game handily. That said, with the end of the season rapidly approaching, every game takes on added importance as the organization confronts September callup and “are we in or are we out” decision making. It’s these, the ones the Red Sox should win, that become the most important to convert and most troublesome to lose.