John Tomase

Red Sox can make a serious run if they can end head-scratching trend

It's time for Boston to start taking care of business against baseball's worst teams.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Red Sox are a last-place team. It says so right in the standings. They trail the Rays by 11 games, the Orioles by seven, and the Yankees and Blue Jays by three each.

The Red Sox are not a last-place team, though. Their odds of reaching the playoffs are 16 percent, virtually the same as the Guardians, who are only 1.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. The Cardinals own 1.3 percent postseason odds, and every other last-place team (A's, Royals, Nationals, Rockies) checks in at less than one tenth of one percent.

It would be easier to get a read on this season if the Red Sox were just straight abysmal. Instead, they continue to confound us by playing just well enough to avoid oblivion, but not well enough to escape the basement.

Their skittish season continued on Thursday with a rousing 10-6 victory over the Rangers that seemed headed in the same direction as so many of their most demoralizing losses, a pair of defensive miscues opening the door for the visitors to take the lead en route to a series victory.

Instead, the Red Sox exploded for six runs in the seventh to overcome that 5-3 deficit, continuing one of the strangest trends of their season. With the win, they took two out of three from the first-place Rangers, which is pretty much what they do.

In fact, with the exception of teams from Florida, the Red Sox play well against good teams and poorly against bad ones. Take out the Rays (1-7) and Marlins (0-3), and the Red Sox are 35-19 against teams that are .500 or better. Put them back in, and they're still 36-29. Included in that record is a massive 12-1 against the Yankees and Blue Jays that has kept them afloat in the division.

The killer is that they've gone 9-14 against everyone else, including 1-8 vs. the Cards, Rockies, and Pirates, who sit a collective 38 games out of first place. If they played as well against the bad teams as the good ones, they'd be on pace for 90 wins.

They'll get a chance to reverse that streak when the homeless A's come to town on Friday for three. At 25-64, Oakland actually has a chance to cede the worst record in baseball to the Royals, who have fallen to within a half game of the overall basement. The A's are by no means suddenly good, but they're not as wretched as they were in April and May, either.

Since the start of June, they're 15-18, which isn't that far off from the Red Sox (17-16). So now the "challenge" for Alex Cora's club will be playing as well against Oakland as it did against Texas.

The Red Sox need every game they can get ahead of the trade deadline in three weeks. The Yankees are entering one of the easiest portions of their schedule, with only one series against a winning team between now and the final weekend of July, and that's the Angels, who just lost Mike Trout for two months. The underachieving Blue Jays face a tougher road, with series against the Diamondbacks, Padres, Mariners, and Dodgers.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, will spend most of the month on the road, with visits to Wrigley Field, Oakland, San Francisco, and Seattle sprinkled around five games at Fenway vs. the Mets and Braves.

Maybe by the end of that stretch, we'll have a better handle on who they are, and whether they're even a last-place team at all.

Contact Us