McAdam: Sox face challenging second-half start

McAdam: Sox face challenging second-half start
July 17, 2013, 12:00 pm
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NEW YORK -- The schedule-makers are not about to let the Red Sox ease into the start of the second half of the season.
Starting Friday, when the Red Sox host the New York Yankees for the first time at Fenway Park this season, the Red Sox will come out of the All-Star break with a stretch of 10 games against the three teams closest to them in the standings -- the Yankees (three at Fenway), followed by the Tampa Bay Rays (four at Fenway) and wrapping up with the Baltimore Orioles (three at Camden Yards).
In another 10 days, we'll know a lot more about the Sox and where they stand against their division opponents.
"That's a big test for us,'' said Dustin Pedroia. "Anytime you play in the division, you find out where you're at. It's a way to make up ground or lose it, so hopefully we play well and win as many games as we can."
As the second half of the season begins, the Red Sox lead second-place Tampa Bay by 2 1/2 games, Baltimore by 4 1/2 and the Yankees by six.
The Sox sit in first place, but there's 3 1/2 months remaining and they aren't taking anything for granted.
"We're a confident team,'' said Pedroia, "but we understand that every day we have to come out play the best we can and win ballgames. We're not looking ahead. We're not doing anything other than trying to win that game. We've had that approach all year and it's worked, so we're going to continue to do that.''
A team might like to have a less challenging start to its second half as it comes back from the four-day All-Star break. But some of the Red Sox like the fact that the Sox are getting the A.L. East's best right away.
"I wouldn't have it any other way,'' said Clay Buchholz who is unlikely to pitch in that 10-game stretch as he attempts to get past some inflammation in the bursa sac near his right shoulder. "Regardless of who we're playing in our division, it's not an easy task. Getting those three teams back-to-back, it's going to be tough. But we have a good team, too, so it's fun to go out and face the best because we're feel like every time we're on the field, the other team is giving its best back to us.
"That's what we've been dealing with all year, so we're going to try to stay on the same page.''
Buchholz prefers to see this is an opportunity for the Red Sox as much as it a challenge.
"It could extend our lead in the division or it could diminish it,'' he said. "I think everybody on our club knows that we have to go out and play as hard as we can and do the same thing we've been doing through this first half and let everything else take care of itself.''
"We have to come back strong in the second half,'' said David Ortiz. "You're going to be playing those teams in your division 18 or 19 times a year, so it doesn't matter when you play them. I don't think it's a best test. I think the biggest test, for me, is when you go across the country to play. You have to adjust to the time, you haven't played them (much). At least we see the teams in our division a lot."
But Ortiz acknowledges that the Sox can make things easier on themselves with a strong stretch here in the next week or so.
"We have to just keep on rolling the way we've been,'' said Ortiz.