The Boston Red Sox have been the dominant team in baseball the last two months and are finally being rewarded for their play. Oddsmakers have dropped their World Series odds from a high of 11/1 to 3/1, the lowest of any team in the league — and putting them ahead of defending champion Houston at 5/1.
The Red Sox are the favorites because they have compiled the best record in baseball, taking the last two months to dominate the league. By the All-Star break they were 68-30, breaking the record of most wins by that date. The old record of 65 was set by the 1968 Baltimore Orioles.
They were the first Red Sox team in history to reach 70 wins by 102 games, doing so a week later. The team has had streaks of eight or more victories three times during the first-half of the season.
They also had four pitchers at 10 or more wins during that time. That hadn’t been achieved since the 1977 Los Angeles Angels.
Difficult to Find Weakness
The formula for the team’s success isn’t complicated, first-year manager Alex Cora said. He told the Boston Globe the team has been building confidence since Opening Day.
“Regardless if they win or lose, they talk about the game, they talk about certain adjustments and they show up the next day and play hard,” Cora said.
Dave Dombroski, president of team operations, said it is a bit more complex than that. He told USA Today they have no apparent weaknesses.
“Sometimes we play spectacular defense,” Dombrowski said. “We have good starting pitching – at times, spectacular. We have a good bullpen – at times, spectacular. “We’re really good in a lot of areas. We’re deep.”
By Aug. 16 the team was 10.5 games ahead of its rival, the New York Yankees, in the American League East. They were also a staggering 50 games above .500.
Slump or Just a Road Bump?
The team won 90 games before any other team won 80, but gamblers need to remember the Los Angeles Dodgers reached 90 wins at the same time last year, but came up short in the World Series.
The last eight games, the Red Sox have shown signs of slowing down. In their last two series they are 2-6, including being swept by Tampa Bay for the first time all season.
Cora said the three-game series loss to the Rays was a blip, and he believes the team will be fine.
“It was a bad weekend,” Cora added. “They’re (the Rays) playing good baseball. Day off tomorrow and go get them on Tuesday, I think we’re preparing the same. We’ll start looking at a few things and we’ll pay attention to detail. I saw a few things, and it’s not that I didn’t like them, but we make adjustments even when we win.”
But suddenly their lead in the AL East is down to six games and they are embarking on a seven-game road trip in three days. Starter Chris Sale, a Cy Young candidate, is out with shoulder tendinitis and the rest of the staff is struggling.
Meanwhile the Yankees, who were experiencing injuries of their own, are starting to get healthy. Aaron Judge is near returning from a fractured wrist, and Gary Sanchez, who suffered a strained groin, is apparently healthy again, and embarking on a rehab assignment this week.