This weekend may very well set the tone for the remainder of the Boston Red Sox season. Just one game past the halfway point, Boston sits only two games above .500 at 42-40 after a dreadful West coast road trip that showcased almost no offense from the Red Sox lineup.
Despite injuries, Boston has been good enough to stay within two games of second-place Baltimore, but, nevertheless, remains 7.5 games behind first place New York, which comes to Boston this weekend to close out the unofficial first half of the season. A daunting hole indeed, but what is unique about the weekend is Saturday’s doubleheader; a makeup from the Sunday night rainout on April 22.
In 2006, the then first-place Red Sox faced a similar scenario against second-place New York when a scheduled four-game, mid-August series inherited a fifth game in the form of a Friday doubleheader. Infamously for Red Sox Nation, the Yankees swept the series, taking hold of first place and effectively knocking the Red Sox out of the playoff race.
This season, the Red Sox look to avoid the same fate. While Boston could gain a bit of ground over the course of this weekend, a series loss would be disastrous.
Should the Red Sox win or even sweep the series, however, the resulting momentum shift would present a much-needed boost entering the trade deadline and pennant race. Both the Red Sox and Yankees are fighting off major injuries to key players. However, the Red Sox look to get a few of them back after the break, including closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Carl Crawford who is also looking to redeem himself after his poor season in 2011.
In addition to these recoveries, the Red Sox also have a slight benefit from their lacking All-Star count. Boston sends only David Ortiz to the Midsummer Classic, while Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano will be starters representing New York. Cano, who has accrued the second most home runs among Yankee hitters (behind Granderson), will also be taking part in the Home Run Derby on Monday night; a competition which has noticeably and negatively impacted participants in the past decade.
With rest and recovery, it seems the 2012 Red Sox may have the opportunity to turn around their slow start and make a genuine push for the fifth wild card spot or even the AL East crown in the second half of the season — but that run will hinge on their performance this weekend.