For a team coming off a World Series victory, the Boston Red Sox were expected to regress a bit in their 2019 campaign, as most championship winners in any sport tend to do. What was not expected was how much this team stumbled out of the gate, especially after how many of their key pieces returned for this season.
Forced to play from behind right from Opening Day, the Red Sox have struggled mightily in their quest to make it back-to-back World Series championships, and they do not even look like the third-best team in their own stinking division. Behind the New York Yankees by 13.5 games and the Tampa Bay Rays by six games thanks to a seven-game losing streak, the BoSox have a ton of work to do if they want to even threaten to limp into the playoffs.
Needing to pick up their play in a big way, here are four ways the Red Sox can turn around their season and make their postseason aspirations a reality.
Understand that low expectations can be beneficial
Last season, many people picked the Red Sox to be the team to beat, which rang true in the end. This season, expectations have tempered, almost to the point where it would be a surprise if they went out and made the playoffs, even as a Wild Card (six games out).
Being able to understand the importance of having low outside expectations is half the battle, as those distractions can become a bit too much to handle at times. While playing a professional sport in the city of Boston is never an easy task, the Red Sox have the players and time still on their side to make up the needed ground, even if some people feel as though this is not a feasible task.
Not winning the division this year is not the worst thing — while the American League is very tough this year, they are all beatable, and the Red Sox do have the ability to win in tough situations, like in a do-or-die Wild Card matchup.
Change their mindset to Wild Card or bust
With the division now essentially lost thanks to this losing streak, it’s time to fully focus on the Wild Card. With this in mind, what is so bad about a Wild Card matchup?
The Red Sox would have a good chance to win against any of the other Wild Card hopefuls. The Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays hold the two Wild Card spots now, with the Oakland Athletics in hot pursuit. The Rays would probably be the most difficult of these potential opponents. Being a divisional opponent obviously adds another layer to it, and the familiarity with each other would make it difficult to game plan for each other.
Still, the pitching of Boston would ultimately outplay the Rays’ in that regard, and having been there on a more consistent basis would carry the BoSox to the next round if faced off against their Tampa Bay divisional rivals.
Get Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi in favorable offensive situations
As the two offensive stars of this team, both Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi have had solid but not spectacular seasons in Boston. This team, if they want to make that push into playoff contention, will need both guys to raise their production and become much more clutch as the season progresses.
It was always going to be hard for Betts to live up to his MVP season last year, but his numbers are well down, even if they’re still good. He slashed .346/.438/.640 last, and this year he’s at .284/.390/.495. If he could play close to MVP level, that would be a huge boost.
For Benintendi, the left fielder’s defense has been stellar this season, but he struggled offensively for a good chunk of the season before a recent hot streak.
Others, like J.D. Martinez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts, have all had their moments so far this season, but just like Betts and Benintendi, they need to step it up as the regular season draws to an end.
Have David Ortiz recover and come to a game before the playoffs
Emotional victories can do a ton for a team, and seeing David Ortiz make a miraculous comeback after the senseless, unfortunate situation he was put through would be an absolute godsend for this team. As the team’s backbone even as a retiree, Ortiz is the embodiment of what it takes to be a Boston Red Sox player.
Just having him in person at the game, or even if he is just shown watching the game at home on some kind of feed, would do wonders for this team, showing that if Ortiz never gave up on them, then they cannot give up on each other and they cannot let Ortiz down.
While a stretch to ask for, any sort of positive updates involving Ortiz’s situation would be great and something the Red Sox would absolutely love to hear and experience at some point in the rest of their season.