Don’t Count Out The Boston Red Sox Just Yet
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The American League East has consistently been one of the strongest divisions in baseball for several seasons. In 2021, three teams — the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox — made postseason appearances. The year before, it was the Rays, Yankees, and Blue Jays. Three years ago, the Rays and Yankees.

Through the first month of this season, the 2018 World Series champion Red Sox looked like they were not headed toward another playoff berth this fall. They went 9-13 in April and on the first of May they were only a game better than the Baltimore Orioles in their division.

But nearly a month later, the Red Sox have been trending up. They have a winning record in May, thanks largely to a six-game winning streak from May 18 to 24. And since May 8, they have the best record in the majors.

This turnaround seemed to be in the making, at least for the offense.

“There was a lot of stuff that was real in April,” manager Alex Cora told reporters after their winning streak ended on Wednesday night. “One thing that we were positive about was the hard contact. And now it kind of evens out. But they did an amazing job of staying disciplined. We’re very proud.”

Boston can thank a few bats coming to life for their recent stretch of wins. Namely, shortstop Trevor Story.

Story’s batting average was below .200 in mid-May, but by the end of their winning streak, he had it up to .231. Story went 4-for-4 with three home runs against the Mariners on May 19, and six of his eight home runs this season have come since the 19th. Story had just five extra-base hits in all of April.

The offense as a whole has scored 191 runs so far, good for 10th in baseball. They have climbed in that ranking lately thanks to some high-scoring wins this month; the Red Sox have scored in double digits three times in May, including a 16-3 win over the White Sox on Tuesday.

The question for the Red Sox is whether they can keep up a winning pace as the season turns into its second quarter. Boston should be able to keep up with the scoring, but them making it back to the postseason might hinge on their pitching. They have a team ERA of 3.75, which ranks just barely in the top half of the league. Even during their six-game winning streak, Red Sox starters had an ERA of 4.88.

In 2021, they were able to paper over this kind of pitching performance by scoring a lot, but that might not be enough this season. Boston’s recent success feels reminiscent of last year’s team, and that group ended up going 92-70 and made it to the American League Championship Series.

But even with expanded playoffs this year, the Red Sox will have to sustain the kind of pace they have been on for most of May to get there. In their division, the Yankees have the best record in baseball at 17-6. Behind them, the Blue Jays are 15-9, and the Rays would take the third American League playoff spot if the season ended today.

Given their rejuvenated offense, the Red Sox probably are not in need of new bats at the August 2 trade deadline. And with their estimated 2022 payroll currently sitting just $12 million below the first tier of the luxury tax threshold of $230 million, Boston will have to be judicious about how they approach the trade market this summer.

If they do look to improve, bringing in a quality arm or two is the way to go. They have a veteran-heavy rotation already, but someone like Wade Miley would fit nicely. Miley recently returned to the Cubs from an elbow injury. In his last two starts, Miley has thrown quality starts against the Pirates and Diamondbacks. Last year, Miley had one of the best seasons of his career, going 12-7 with a 3.37 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds. He is getting $10 million from the Cubs this season and will be a free agent when the year ends, and the Cubs are currently eight games below .500, so Miley is a very likely trade candidate. He fits Boston’s needs both on the field and in the ledger, so Miley makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox.

Whatever path general manager Brian O’Halloran and chief of baseball operations Chaim Bloom decide to take, the Red Sox have shown over the past few weeks of baseball that they can return to 2021 form and get back to the playoffs. But in order to do that this year, they can boost their odds with more help from their pitching staff.

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