Last week, we talked about the current portion of the schedule in which the Red Sox currently find themselves, and how important it is for a variety of reasons. Said stretch, which covers either the first half of June or the entire month, depending on how you’d like to define it, did not get off to a great start in Houston, but the team bounced back in a big way this past weekend. Boston headed down to the Bronx and took all three games on the road against the Yankees. It is true that this Yankees roster is playing below their expected talent level, but even with that being taken into consideration this was an important weekend for the Red Sox for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, whether it’s fair or not this team needs to keep proving that they are real. That is just the way things are after a season like 2020, which was an unmitigated disaster in every sense of the word. There were obviously extenuating circumstances there, but the fact is expectations were somewhat low coming into the season, and when a team plays over the head of expectations they have to prove that it is real. One series will not make people totally buy-in on its own, but this team has been playing winning baseball all season, and there’s a real chance we look back on this past weekend as the point at which they proved they truly are among the AL’s best. That’s not to say they’re done proving themselves, but this was a big test and they passed with flying colors.
The idea of proving themselves was even bigger considering the context of the previous series early in the week. This month started with a four-game series down in Houston, and while the Red Sox were able to avoid a sweep they did drop three of four. Prior to that series, their schedule had felt a little light, and dropping that big series was a disappointment. That performance combined with those aforementioned preseason expectations led to some creeping feeling that the series loss in Houston would be the start of the steep fall from grace. It would not be the first time a baseball team lost a big series that resulted in a precipitous fall. That the Red Sox were able to bounce back and show that resilience was huge.
And speaking of that resilience, that was another big part of this weekend. It wasn’t just that Boston won all three games, but it was the way they did so. They got good performances from all over the roster, and were able to come back to win for each of the final two games. That’s been something this team has excelled at all year, and being able to do it on the road in Yankee Stadium — even in front of reduced capacity crowds — shows that it is not a fluke. That is part of the identity of that team. And on that resilience note, we saw players like Marwin Gonzalez and Bobby Dalbec, who had been struggling for so much of this year, come through with big swings at big times.
And then there’s the Yankees of it all. As we said at the top, this is a reeling Yankees team. There is certainly an argument for that taking some of the shine off this sweep. I mean, the Tigers just swept the Yankees as well, and we’re not talking about the Tigers as proving themselves. But it is different for the Red Sox. For one thing, they’ve been terrible at Yankee Stadium for a few years now. It’s true that many of the players on this team weren’t here for some or all of those losses, but that’s the kind of thing that can stick in a clubhouse. Even if you weren’t there for the losses, you still can feel those bad vibes, while the other side can ride that confidence. The Red Sox were able to put those losses behind them, which should only help moving forward, too.
And speaking of moving forward, they also put a dent in the Yankees roster. Yes, New York is now the fourth-place team in the American League East, but they still have a better than 50 percent chance at the playoffs on both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus. There is still too much talent on this roster to believe they are just going to lie back and not be a factor all year. More likely is that they have a resurgence at some point and get right back in the thick of things. Having these three wins banked in the head-to-head matchup goes a long way in what could be a tight race. In a four-team divisional race, getting wins over the AL East rivals is massively important, even this early in the year.
Again, all of this is not to say that the Red Sox are done proving themselves or even that I am totally buying in. I still think there is at least a chance this is roughly a .500 roster. The thing is, the wins now are banked, and playing .500 the rest of the way would give them 87 or 88 wins, which in turn would at least put them in the wildcard picture. And really, they just keep giving us reasons to think they may be even more than that. In realistic terms, this weekend in the Bronx was simply one good series in early June against a team that is struggling mightily. But I think it’s fair to look at it as more than that, and a major testament to this Red Sox club.