The Boston Red Sox entered the MLB All-Star break playing as well as any team in the sport, which has fans cautiously optimistic heading into the second half of the 2023 season.
The Sox will exit the break with a five-game win streak and eight wins in their last nine games. Five of those victories are against teams (Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays) currently in a playoff spot.
One of the catalysts behind Boston's winning ways is a red-hot lineup. The Red Sox rank No. 2 in the American League in hits, No. 2 in batting average, No. 3 in runs scored, No. 1 in doubles, No. 4 in total bases and No. 2 in on-base percentage.
The Red Sox are five games above .500 at 48-43, which puts them just two games behind the third and final wild card playoff spot in the AL.
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Tom Giles and Michael Holley debated this topic Monday on NBC Sports Boston's "Boston Sports Tonight". While Giles likes how the Red Sox are playing right now, he's still a little hesitant of fully embracing this group.
"There's still something that's holding me back a little bit," Giles explained. "Defensively the mistakes are still there. The starting rotation is not strong enough. And you're going to start to lose some of these games that you maybe managed to steal from the Oakland A's. They stole Sunday's game."
The Red Sox are last in the AL in fielding percentage and their 61 errors are the most in the league. Boston also ranks 10th in the AL in team ERA.
Holley is in, but he also wants to see the Red Sox build on their momentum by taking advantage of a soft upcoming schedule that includes several opponents who are underachieving and under .500 at this point in the season.
"I'm intrigued, very engaged, wait and see -- optimistic wait and see," Holley said. "And do you know why? Look at that schedule. They (recently) played the A's and they've got the A's coming up again. They've got the Mets coming up. They've got the Cubs coming up. These are all teams under .500. If they're not 10 games over .500 by the end of July, I'm out, and I'll also be disappointed."
The Red Sox exit the All-Star break with six straight road games against the Cubs and Athletics, followed by three games against the Mets at Fenway Park. If the Red Sox don't make up more ground in the wild card race during this stretch, it could be tough for them to reach the postseason because their schedule gets significantly harder in late August and September.