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    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    The Push to Soxtober

    The Boston Red Sox have just about completed their claw back to the top of the AL East. It’s been a while since they’ve made it to the top, but they are almost there and with a win tonight, it is a sealed deal that they will at least spend some time atop the AL East, but will it be short lived?

    One thing is for sure, the Red Sox know how to win at Fenway Park, but their record away from home is not as impressive. They are below five hundred on the road this year with a ZERO wins at Tropicana Field, where they will end up a week from yesterday for the final three game set against the Tampa Bay Rays.

    The good news though? The Red Sox will be spending the majority of the last three weeks of the season at Friendly Fenway where they are an incredible 49-19 this season. Not the best home record in the league, but it’ll do.

    What will be the difference maker for the Red Sox to finish the season atop the AL East? What is it every year? It’s the bullpen stupid.

    It is safe to say that the Red Sox starting rotation is solid this year. With the expected return of Josh Beckett to his typical late season form, starting tomorrow night, Dice-K’s strong season, Lester is out of his mind good right now, Timmy Wakefield and Paul Byrd to round out the five, the starting pitching is looking good if not great heading into October.

    The offense remains strong with a surprisingly strong performance by Coco Crisp and great numbers from Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youklis, both MVP contenders this season. There have also been the amazing contributions from additions Mark Kotsay and Jason Bay to the line-up and with the return of Mike Lowell and JD Drew, the Red Sox almost have too many bats to play and I didn’t even mention David Ortiz. Offense? We’re good.

    So what is left to scrutinize? Must be the bullpen. While Papelbon has remained strong this season, he has also had a hard time getting through an inning cleanly in quite sometime. Then there is last year’s lights out eighth inning guy Hideki Okajima who’s struggles this season have been well documented, but who appears to be turning a corner. Justin Masterson has shown that he has great stuff coming from the pen, but there is still a consistency question mark with his performances. From time to time, Manny Delcarmen has been solid, but again there is a question about consistency. Then there’s the one guy that really never gets mentioned, but who has put up some quality numbers this season and that is Javier Lopez. Nobody gives him the credit he deserves, but with a 2.72 ERA, he just might be the bridge-to-Pap we need come the playoffs.

    There you have it, only one real question mark for the Red Sox going into October and really, it’s not much of a question mark. Hey, we won the series with Eric Gagne in the bullpen, I think we’re good to go.

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