ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 16: Infielder Adrian Gonzalez #28 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his ninth inning home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on June 16, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Tonight the Red Sox return home to FenwayPark to face the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers after a nine game road trip during which they lost just one game. Going 8-1 on the road is always a good thing to do, but when you do it against three division rivals it is even better. Add to that the fact that these three teams are among the best in baseball and the road trip begins to look like an important sign for the team.
Consider this: The New York Yankees are the only team with a better offense than Boston. Their 357 runs matches the Sox exactly, but they get a slight edge in the advanced metrics with a RC+ of 122 and wOBA of .353 against the Sox 117 and .349 marks. That is the same Yankees team that Boston just swept in Yankee Stadium. The third best offense in the American League belongs to the Toronto Blue Jays. In six games away from Fenway, the Red Sox did not lose once against the best offensive teams in the league.
On the previous road trip, which began on May 23, the Red Sox faced the team with the best record to that point, the Cleveland Indians and the team that boasts the fourth best offense in baseball, the Detroit Tigers. They managed to win both series, taking two of three from Cleveland and three of four against Detroit.
There last series lost occurred at home against the American League’s best second pitching team (by FIP-), the Chicago White Sox. The South Siders swept Boston despite allowing an uncharacteristic 14 runs in three games. The Sox shook it off however and swept Oakland, the league’s fourth best pitching staff before that wonderful series in the Bronx, where they took it to the third best staff in the AL.
Tonight, the team gets a chance to face another elite team. The Milwaukee Brewers are the National League’s second best offensive team, behind only their division rivals, St. Louis. They can pitch too, ranking fourth in the senior circuit. Aside from the Yankees, the Brewers might be the most complete team Boston will have to face in the foreseeable future. This series will be an important litmus test for the Red Sox. Winning games is important regardless of the opponent, but when a team can consistently beat the best of both leagues, everyone should take notice. Come October, the schedule won’t feature a six game stretch against Pittsburgh and San Diego.
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