If the Boston Red Sox are not willing to give up on 2014 yet, a strong start to the second half is absolutely necessary.
The Red Sox began play in the second half of the MLB season tied for Tampa Bay in the cellar of the American League East. But with no team taking control at the top of the division, many believe the playoff birth is still available for any of the five teams competing for the spot.
On Friday, Five Thirty Eight wrote an article about Ben Cherington, the Red Sox and why Boston fans still have something to believe in for the rest of the season. In the article, Five Thirty Eight sites predictive models at fangraphs.com that suggest Boston is among the MLB's elite as far as second half projections.
Sure the Sox have not performed up to their Championship-selves a year after defeating the Cardinals for the club's third World Series in 11 seasons. But there is a high-degree of luck involved in any given baseball season. And despite the fact that baseball has the longest campaign, the best teams do not always show their true colors, according to statisticians at least.
Boston has been unluckily bad, according to Fangraphs. But there is still time to write the ship. And Boston began writing it on Friday with a one-run win over Kansas City at Fenway.
A game that might have gone the other way in the first half, Boston was not only able to win by a single run, but come back against a great Royals pitching staff.
Clay Buchholz became the first Boston starter to start back-to-back games since Hideo Nomo did the same in 2001. Nomo's consecutive starts came as a result of the 9/11 events. Buchholz had the extra days of rest due to the All-Star Break. But the former ace was not as effective as he was last time out in an encouraging start against the Houston Astros.
But Buchholz battled. And he was able to get through six innings and only give up four runs, despite allowing double-digit hits. Ten to be exact. Boston trailed 4-1 in the sixth inning before a pair of long balls put the home team ahead for good.
Xander Boegarts has been on a historically bad recently after coming up one game short of an all-time record for consecutive games with a negative WPA by a shortstop. But the Sox's phenom showed signs of a turn-around with a two-run homer to dead center field in the sixth. James Shields came out of the game and Scott Downs didn't fare any better.
With an inherited runner on, Downs gave up a two-run, go-ahead, pinch-hit home run to Boston outfielder Jonny Gomes. The home run cleared the fence in left center and gave Boston a 5-4 lead. And the bullpen handled matters from there.
Burke Badenhop, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara combined to throw three shutout innings from there to plaster the win. The win brings Boston within 8.5 of the division leader after an Orioles' loss and gives Sox fans that there is still more to play for in 2014.
The Red Sox continue things with another with Kansas City on Saturday.