BOSTON – After dominating their just-concluded nine-game homestand going 8-1, the Red Sox head out west for a 10-game trip to Anaheim (three games), Seattle (four), and Oakland (three). The trip, heading into the All-Star break, is the Sox longest of the first half.
At 53-34, the Sox are a season-high 19 games over .500, in first place in the American League East, with their biggest lead in the division since they were five games up on June 24, 2009, with the best record in the American League and the most wins in baseball. But, a three-city trip can be difficult, especially with the west coast travel and time changes factored in. The teams they will face will be a good challenge for the Sox.
While the Angels have struggled for much of this season, their play has been much improved of late. Heading into Thursday’s game against the Cardinals, the Angels had won seven of their last 10. The A’s have been at the top of the AL West for much of the season. And the Mariners, although below .500, could trip up the Sox.
The Sox took two of three from the Angels at Fenway Park last month, but have yet to face the Mariners and A’s.
“This will be another good test for us,” manager John Farrell said of the trip. “I think it’s important to have that momentum going into the break. You never want to go into a stretch where you start to slide back from the confidence that has been built or the wins we’ve been able to amass.
“We’re going to be challenged. Not only in terms of the teams we’re playing, obviously the Angels are playing better now than when they were in town last. Oakland is having a very strong year in their own right, and the fact that we go out west, which presents its own set of challenges, this will be a tough trip.”
The successful homestand gives the Sox a nice bounce to take on the trip with them.
“We’ve played very well and we’ve gotten some good starting pitching this last time through, the turn of the rotation, the last two times,” Farrell said. “We’ve had some exciting games late and I think this further builds the confidence and momentum of this group. Any time you can rack up that many wins in a 9-game homestead, this is the obvious statement: It’s a good thing.”
But how big a role does momentum play?
“I think it’s great," Jonny Gomes said. Home field advantage, getting the crowd into it, obviously, not trying for the late-inning heroics. But it’s good that we have that in the bag if we need it. I think momentum is just within the series. I don’t think momentum really carries over to Anaheim. They could go out and score 20 tonight and think they got momentum. So it’ll just be a clean slate [Friday night].”
“We’ve just been playing the game right,” said Dustin Pedroia. “Doing a lot of things well. We just got to continue doing that on the long trip.
“We’re just playing, man. The next game on the schedule, and you try to win. That’s basically it.”