Boston Red Sox (7/3/17)

Having won 7 of their last 10 games heading into July 3 and a 3.5 game lead over the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East, the Boston Red Sox have finally rounded into the form which carried them into the American League Championship series last October.

With acquisitions such as Chris Sale and Mitch Moreland more than paying their dividend this season, the Red Sox (47-35) are poised to make another deep run. The early season injury to David Price and slow start from Rick Porcello has been weathered, and the young bats which seemed to be mired in a sophomoric slump have awoken to propel the club.

Far and away, the most impressive member of the Red Sox throughout 2017 has been pitcher Chris Sale. The southpaw has registered double-digit strikeout numbers in 11 of the 17 games and 166 total in 17 starts this season. Sale has pitched with such ferocity and aggression, analysts have theorized that he might be taking out a frustration over being traded to the Red Sox this past winter, while on the mound. Sale, who is known for being stand-offish toward the media, has given very little reason on the mound for Boston-area journalists to complain about. His rotation mate David Price has been an entirely different story.

Price, who is in the second year of a 7yr/$217-million dollar deal with the Red Sox, has been a lightning rod of controversy off the field. Spats with the media, and inconsistent pitching has made his tenure in Boston tumultuous. His refusal to speak with media on days which he doesn’t pitch and his July 1 confrontation with Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley on the team flight from Boston to Toronto, have overshadowed his return from injury.

In the 7 games since his return from a disabled list stint which pushed his season debut to May 29, Price has posted a 3-2 record, striking out 36 batters and responsible for a 4.61 ERA over 41 innings pitched. While those numbers might seem a little high, especially for a pitcher making something in the neighborhood of $30 million per season, Price’s most recent outing has brought dollar-for-dollar value to the club’s rotation. The lefty tossed 7 innings of 3 run ball, compiling 7 strikeouts while giving up a pedestrian 6 hits.

Despite those numbers being a far cry from those routinely put up by Chris Sale, it does offer an intensifying guiding light to predict how the rest of the Red Sox season might transpire. If Price and Sale are able to remain consistent, Boston could certainly find themselves playing in the World Series. And the timing of such has never been more contemporarily relevant in Boston as Price’s 2018 opt-out clause looms, magnifying a mutual interest for Price to play nice with the Boston media, and the club to get all they can out of a player who seems to already have one foot out the door.

In accordance with a return to the postseason, the Boston bats have come to life recently, and Mookie Betts has returned to improve on his magical 2016 campaign. After getting off to a slow start, outfielder Mookie Betts sits on 15 home runs and a .286 average while on pace to flirt with a 30-30 season. After last season’s power surge, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to think the speedy all-star could swat 30 home runs while swiping at least 30 bags.

Of course, the biggest buzz throughout the Red Sox organization has been outfielder Andrew Benintendi. Playing in his first full season, the 23-year-old is batting .274 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. While Benintendi still has some growth ahead of him, his ability to impact a game with his bat and glove are an important factor in determining the long-term future of the young core being cultivated in Boston.

If the Red Sox can stay on course, expect a photo finish by season’s end. The American League East has been crowded with powerful teams for the past few decades, and this year is no exception. The power pitching and still emerging roster depth puts the Red Sox in a great position to come out on top of the fray, but not without consistency, timing and a little luck.

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