3 reasons Red Sox are ready for tough stretch

June 24th, 2022

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Give the Red Sox credit for this: After a brutal start to the season (11-20), they’ve rebounded in a big way and are closing in on the top spot in the American League Wild Card standings.

The Wild Card field has expanded to three teams per league this season, and the obvious advantage to getting the top spot is that you get all home games in a best-of-three series.

While the Red Sox hope the wins continue to pile up in the coming weeks, one element is going to change. The opponents for the next month-plus are going to be far tougher than they were the last month or so.

Starting with a three-game series at Cleveland on Friday, 33 of the next 36 games the Red Sox will play are against teams currently on track to make the playoffs.

Of the past 36 games Boston played, only six were against teams who would make the playoffs if the season ended now.

That is a big change in quality of opponents, but one the Red Sox look ready for.

Here are some reasons why:

The offense is back to being elite, particularly at Fenway Park, where the wind is consistently blowing out and the Red Sox are hitting the ball from gap to gap. Rafael Devers looks poised to be an MVP candidate.

The starting pitching continues to be a pillar. Though Chris Sale and James Paxton haven’t thrown a pitch yet in 2022 and Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Whitlock have spent the past couple of weeks on the injured list, Boston continues to get strong starting pitching. Nick Pivetta and Michael Wacha, in particular, have stood out. At 42 years old, Rich Hill is keeping the team in most games he starts. The team’s No. 13 prospect -- righty Josh Winckowski -- has turned in two straight strong starts after being recalled from Triple-A.

The bullpen is starting to figure things out. While this is still the weakest link of the team on paper, the bullpen has looked much more stable since Tanner Houck became the unofficial closer a couple of weeks ago. John Schreiber has come out of nowhere to be a dominant setup man. Lefties Matt Strahm and Austin Davis have been solid all season with the exception of a mishap here or there.

Here is a look at that 36-game schedule though Aug. 3:

June 24-26, at Guardians.
June 27-29, at Blue Jays.
July 1-3, at Cubs (only soft spot during this stretch).
July 4-6, home against Rays.
July 7-10, home against Yankees.
July 11-14, at Rays.
July 15-17, at Yankees.
July 18-21: All-Star break
July 22-24, home against Blue Jays.
July 25-28, home against Guardians.
July 29-31, home against Brewers.
Aug. 1-3, at Astros.