Oh, all right – this is the series I’ve been waiting for!
There is no disputing that the Sox’s performance to date has been stellar. They are in first place and have been there for a while. They have more wins than any other team in baseball and rank second in winning percentage (behind only the St. Louis Cardinals). They lead the American League in runs scored RBIs, and even stolen bases, for goodness sake.
But for all this success, I still have my long-term doubts because I don't believe the club has really been tested yet in any way besides injuries.
Well, that test begins today.
Coming in to tonight's game, Tampa Bay has won five in a row and 17 of their last 19, and after a poor start, they now sit in second place just two games behind the Red Sox. This team clearly has found itself, and it says here that the Red Sox 9-3 record against the Rays is not indicative of the level of competition they are about to experience.
As a point of reference, consider that the Sox are just 2-5 against the Baltimore Orioles this year, and at this point, I think it's fair to say that the Rays are at least as good as the O's are. I think it's also fair to say that the New York Yankees (against whom the Red Sox are 6-3 so far) do not pose anywhere near threat they once did, and the Toronto Blue Jays, the last competitor in the division, are seven games under .500 and are apparently going nowhere even though they own a winning record (8-5) against Boston.
At this moment, the Rays and our Old Towne Team are clearly the class of the division. So the series that opens tonight is perhaps the season’s final test of the Red Sox mettle and thus the club’s postseason possibilities. And that's why it's the one you've been waiting for.