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‘Next Man up’ Could Be X-Factor in Red Sox’ Playoff Run

Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s been an exciting and historic year for the Boston Red Sox so far in 2018.

They are a whopping 78-34 overall, 44 games over .500, projected to win over 110 games, and have a sizeable 8 1/2 game lead over the rival New York Yankees atop the American League East. Despite a recent string of injuries, the Red Sox remain consistent and look like a strong contender to be the team representing the American League in the World Series.

Boston’s team this season features the ‘Killer B’s’ in the outfield—Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi—with Xander Bogaerts commanding the infield at shortstop. Chris Sale and David Price dominate the beginning of games and Craig Kimbrel locks it down at the end. But as of late, the injury bug bit the best team in baseball as they try to lock down the best record in a stacked American League.

By the end of the year, the Sox may well have nine available starting pitchers. Three-fifths of the Red Sox starting pitching staff has been on the disabled list this year, with Sale being the latest addition, joining Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz, and sixth man Steven Wright on the shelf. Price only narrowly avoided the disabled list, meaning Rick Porcello has been the only healthy starter throughout the year.

In the field, the outfield has been steady with just a small DL stint for Mookie Betts. However, almost all the infield starters have spent some time on the DL this year, most notably Dustin Pedroia, who is doubtful to return this year. Ian Kinsler, Pedroia’s replacement, is also on the 10-Day DL.

Behind the plate, Christian Vazquez is out with a broken finger and Blake Swihart is on the 10-Day DL with a hamstring injury. Injuries have riddled the Red Sox this year thus far, totaling 22 DL stints so far this season.

The next man up philosophy may well pay huge dividends for the Red Sox come October. Boston could have to use of up to nine different starters, which will hopefully pay off with several in the bullpen. Bullpens have become a cornerstone of the last two World Series champions, with managers that will go there at a moment’s notice. The Red Sox have a weak bullpen outside of two or three relievers, so they need to have weapons that can come out of the pen and be trusted with extended innings of relief.

The depth on the bench is impressive, with new acquisition Steve Pearce making large contributions in the early stages of his Red Sox tenure. With injuries happening constantly, this Red Sox team doesn’t give up. They are accountable to each other, and they don’t use injuries as excuses for failure. It is what’s made them the best team in the league by far, and expect it to carry them into the postseason.

Each American League powerhouse has had its share of injuries. The Cleveland Indians have dealt with the loss of Andrew Miller and the Yankees lost Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge to DL stints. The Houston Astros have been without Carlos Correa since June as well.

The Red Sox have their own injuries as well, and they haven’t really been at full strength the whole year because of the Pedroia injury. Bostons expects to be there when the World Series starts, and the fans deserve the expectation as well.

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