The Boston Red Sox (59-55) head home to try and get healthy against the Kansas City Royals (40-73) one day removed from a brutal four game set in the Bronx. Though Boston swept the Royals in their only other meeting this season, a three game set from June 4th to 6th out in Kansas City, they did so under radically different circumstances. That Boston squad was a mere 7.5 games back in the division and was tied with Texas for the second wild card – the playoffs, though distant, seemed relatively certain. This team is on an eight game losing streak, 14.5 games back in the division, 6.5 games back of the second wild card spot, and seems dangerously close to the point where the organization, and the players, stop looking towards the playoffs and start looking towards next season. One of the questions foremost in my mind is that, given where Boston now finds themselves, will they quit? And if not now, what will it take?
Of course, last August, the roles were reversed: from August 2nd, 2018 through August 5th, in four glorious games, the future World Champion 2018 Boston Red Sox hosted a fragile Yankees team for four games and shattered them. That sweep up in Fenway effectively dashed New York’s dreams of a division title and relegated them to the wild card chase. But that was then.
This year, a Yankees and Rays strike force teamed up to deliver an eight-game beat down of their division rival during which the league-leading Boston offense was outscored by something like 30 to 512. The starting pitching, so large a part in last year’s title run, has been consistently ineffective, and the bullpen has continued to do what the bullpen has done all year. Sure, Boston is favored heavily against the Royals this series, but what if they drop two out of three? Will the organization shut down key pieces of the pitching staff, effectively giving up on the season? If not this series, what about next series, against the Angels? Or the next, against Cleveland? If the Red Sox can string a serious run together, when does the organization throw in the towel on the 2019 campaign?
Best not to think about it. Tonight, Mike Montgomery (1-4) faces off against Rick Porcello (9-8), and though neither lineup, as presently constituted, has all that much experience against either opposing pitcher, Montgomery sports a career line of 0-1 against Boston with a 12+ ERA. Boston should win in a walk, of course, but if I might for a second, there’s added significance to this game, as there is to all remaining games, and it’s simply this: from here on out, every win keeps the flame burning, the postseason chase alive, stays the organization’s hand for another day from shutting it all down and thinking about 2020. Every loss, well, you know what that does. So let’s hope they win tonight, and keep on winning – I, for one, am not quite ready for the season, or the summer, to be over.