The Boston Red Sox picked up two new pitchers at the trade deadline to make up for the long term loss of Starter Clay Buchholtz and position the team for a World Series run. The Yankees are right on the heels of the Sox and only a game behind first place as of Monday night, but the Yanks made no improvements before the trade deadline. The back and forth battle between the two teams to retain first place is always exciting, but so far this year the Sox dominated the head to head games with the Yankees.
The Red Sox are 8-1 against their arch-rivals this year with three more games coming up this weekend. They are second only to Philadelphia as far as their overall record this year. Even without Buchholtz the team's pitching is solid and bolstered by a phenomenal performance from Jon Lester so far. Lester's 11-4 record and 124 strikeouts leads the team. Aces John Lackey and Josh Beckett have been hot and cold, but Beckett's 2.17 ERA is the best on the team. Buchholtz will be out at least six more weeks now that team doctors found a stress fracture in his spine, so the acuisition of pitchers Erik Bedard and Josh Fields could be crucial to the team's second-half success.
The Texas Rangers also made some interesting moves before the trade deadline, making their pitching staff much stronger with relievers Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. The Red Sox will get a lucky 7 chances before the end of the season to prove those pickups don't make the Rangers unbeatable.
Pitching may be important, but it's only half of the equation. What really seperates this Red Sox team from the competition is their incredible hitting. Smart off-season acquisitions like Adrian Gonzalez (leading the team with a .356 batting average and 90 RBIs) are making a huge difference. The Red Sox lead the league in runs scored with 592, a .281 team batting average, and a .355 on base percentage.
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David Ortiz's 20 home runs is also a huge boost to the team considering his struggles and slumps in recent years since Manny Ramirez left the team. Jacoby Ellsbury's 81 runs scored is good enough to rank him second in the league, and his .320 batting average is good for fifth place in that category. Ellsbury's 31 stolen bases ranks 3rd in the American League, and his complete stats make him a candidate for MVP. With all these superstars performing so well at the plate, Dustin Pedroia's consistency is key. Pedroia's hitting .310 with 57 RBIs and just had a 25-game hitting streak. The team's lineup is fearsome and formidable, and there's no signs these bats will be cooling down anytime soon.
New pitcher Erik Bedard starts his first game for the Sox on Thursday. His 4-7 record doesn't look all that impressive on paper, but he'll be playing for a much better team. He should be ecstatic to be leaving behind the cellar-dwelling Seattle Mariners for a first place Sox team. He'll have some major new mentors, a solid coaching staff, and the inspiration of knowing his efforts could contribute to the team winning another World Series ring this year. He'll also have some of the best run support in the major leagues. Look for the Sox to really earn some serious separation with their top starters going against the Yankees this weekend. After that it's smooth sailing to the playoffs.