This was an important series win for the Sox. They needed to start the second half right. They needed to beat teams like the Rays who are competing for those Wild Card spots. To finish above the Rays in the standings, they need to beat them. It's very simple, but very true.
I'm not overwhelmed by the Sox performance this past weekend, though. Saturday was a winnable game that was lost. And the Sox gave Tampa Bay plenty of opportunities to turn the other games around.
Honestly, are you impressed with what Josh Beckett and Alfredo Aceves did yesterday afternoon? Beckett was a slow-motion disaster in the 1st inning, then Aceves nearly blew a 4 run lead in the 9th.
The Sox are only 1.5 games out of the 2nd Wild Card spot. But there are 4 teams between them and Baltimore. In this race, the name of the game is separation. What will separate the Red Sox from these teams in the final standings?
Winning a series like this is important because it helps give them separation from Tampa Bay. A sweep, obviously, would have given them even more separation. Had they swept, they'd be 0.5 games out, ahead of Tampa Bay, and tied with Oakland and Detroit. Only the two Wild Card teams (the Angels and Orioles) would be ahead of them.
If Josh Beckett can pitch as well as he did from the 2nd inning on, that can give the Sox the necessary separation to break away from the pack. Jacoby Ellsbury went 3 for 5 yesterday, he could prove to be the separation from the other teams. If Adrian Gonzalez can hit in the clutch, if Will Middlebrooks can get hot again, if Clay Buchholz can stay healthy and effective, if Mike Aviles can hit the occasional homerun (as he did yesterday), these could all be the separating factors that allow the Red Sox to get one of the Wild Card spots.
One thing they must also do is be able to score against good pitching and hold their own against good teams. Speaking of which, the White Sox come to town for 4 games. I'll be content with a 2-2 split in this series.
Tonight Aaron Cook faces Dylan Axelrod, who has been a part-time starter for the White Sox. But none of the Red Sox have much experience against him, and that's frequently not a good sign.