Everyone has a point in the year where they start watching the standings. For me, that point is Opening Day. Even after years of watching teams come out of the gates on fire only to end the year 10 games under .500--and just as many start 2-8 before winning 90--I still can't ignore the standings on April 5th anymore than I can ignore them on September 21st.
For now, the Red Sox have done all they can do to make those standings a beautiful thing to behold. Oh, sure, it's only one game, but after two years of taking so long to find that first win, 1-0 is a sight for the sorest of eyes. The rest of the east, however, lays fallow. All that will change in a few hours as the Orioles take on the Rays and the Blue Jays face the Indians.
Cleveland - Toronto is an easy enough choice to make. The Red Sox want to see Toronto lose. The Blue Jays are obviously competition this year, expected by many to take the East. And, if Cleveland are hoping to make a push in the Central after a decent offseason, they really aren't likely to factor significantly into any wild card race. A 3-0 sweep by Cleveland would be just as nice as it is unlikely.
Baltimore - Tampa Bay, however, is another story entirely. Where do we Red Sox fans see each team? Even as they produce underwhelming lineup after underwhelming lineup, the Rays remain ever the threat thanks to their ability to keep runs off the board. The good news is that they've likely sacrificed some amount of quality this year with the James Shields trade, however likely it is to pay off ten-fold down the road.
The Orioles are rather more difficult to get a handle on. We know that last year's performance is not entirely supported by the numbers. We know they had a quiet offseason. Does that mean they're going to crumble in 2013? It's a possibility, but you can't just write them off that easily. There's something to be said for a dominant bullpen making its presence known in close games, but not blowouts. There's something to be said for the fact that they won the number of games they did last year with plenty of players playing worse than they might be expected to this year.
For now, I feel like Red Sox fans should hope--from a strictly baseball standpoint--that the Orioles take these games, or at least two of them. But perhaps that's just because the Rays are the team that's been taking playoff spots from the Red Sox when they were actually competitive, while the Orioles only came on in a lost 2012 season. Time will tell.
Read more Red Sox:
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- Finally! Red Sox pitching and pace
- When it comes to the Red Sox, predicting things goes predictably
- Jackie Bradley Jr. is apparently a gladiator but also a president