For the first time since June 14-16, the Los Angeles Dodgers have lost a three-game series. While the ebbs and flows of every baseball season, regardless of how magical it seems, will lead to series losses, the accomplishment by the Boston Red Sox over the weekend should not be taken lightly.
Behind Jake Peavy's complete-game three-hitter on Sunday and a Johnny Gomes first inning, three-run home run on Saturday night, the Red Sox walked into Chavez Ravine in first place in the American League East, but more importantly, left still standing on top.
In the process, they sent an edict to Major League Baseball: Include the Boston Red Sox in the discussion of World Series favorites.
By taking down the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers, while staving off the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, Boston enters the last five weeks of the season alone atop the deepest division in baseball and just a game behind the Detroit Tigers for the best record in the league.
If they can surpass Detroit and end the season with the best record in the league, the road to the World Series will go through Fenway Park.
With Clay Buchholz's rehab progressing at the pace he expects (via WEEI), Boston should have a major reinforcement to add to their rotation sometime in September. If or when he returns at the level he was pitching when departing in June, Boston Red Sox fans should feel confident calling themselves the favorite.
Until then, the reigning American League Champions, the Detroit Tigers, should be considered the American League favorites.
While Boston was taking two of three from Los Angeles, Detroit went to New York and swept the rebuilding Mets. That won't create headlines, generate Sunday Night Baseball ratings or generate columns foreshadowing October success, but it did help Jim Leyland's team bump their cushion to six games over Cleveland atop the American League Central.
Furthermore, Detroit now owns a 99.3 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason, according to ESPN.com's playoff predictor. Boston, after moving to 77-55, stands at a 91.8 percent chance of playing in October. In other words, it's very, very likely that both the Red Sox and Tigers will play in the postseason, but a virtual lock when discussing Detroit.
In Boston, there is still work to be done, including holding off the Rays, Orioles and Yankees for the American League East crown. If that's achieved, the Red Sox can avoid the dreaded one-game Wild Card playoff game. If not, their status as the World Series favorite out of the American League would be compromised.
If the Red Sox steamroll the competition, welcome back a healthy Clay Buchholz, gain home field advantage in the American League and come closer to matching Detroit's run differential advantage (+173 to +122), they could enter October as the American League favorites to reach the World Series.
For now, though, despite two out of three in Los Angeles, the defending American League Champions, led by the 19-1 Max Scherzer and the hitting genius that is Miguel Cabrera in Detroit, profile as the best bet to come out of the American League.
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