Ten games up at the break. A starting rotation that has backboned their success. A setup man/closer combo second to none. A couple of bashers who haven't even racheted it up yet. So, how come you're still worried about the Red Sox?
Ten games up at the break. A starting rotation that has backboned their success. A setup man/closer combo second to none. A couple of bashers who haven't even racheted it up yet.
So, how come you're still worried about the Red Sox? OK, maybe you're not. If you are, we understand. It's an incurable condition.
But with a rather stunning, if not entirely "safe" lead starting the season's second half tonight at Fenway against the Blue Jays, there still is more to be revealed about the Red Sox. Do they win the division going away, or does a pretender - the Yankees, let's say - give them a run for their money?
Or, perish the thought, does Boston do an el foldo reminiscent of '78?
Here's what we'll be looking at:
Josh Beckett's first-half mastery was what the Sox thought they were getting when they made the trade with the Marlins. For him to duplicate it in the second half might be asking too much.
That's where Curt Schilling comes in. Before going on the DL, the 40-year-old had his moments, especially the one-hitter in Oakland. Overall, his first half wasn't impressive enough to make Theo Epstein sorry he didn't give Schilling a new contract before the season started.
A Schilling rebound in the second half, in partnership with Beckett being Beckett, would backbone the staff. And if Daisuke Matsuzaka really is a warm weather pitcher like he claims, that's three days a week manager Terry Francona can relax.
Tim Wakefield most likely will be as streaky as the pitch he lives by. The fifth starter is Julian Tavarez now, but maybe not later, with Kason Gabbard and Jon Lester hoping to stake a claim. Either one would give the rotation a lefty.
For sheer unexpectedness, Hideki Okajima has been as terrific a story as any in the majors. For the July-to-September run, whether he's figured out the hitters better than vice versa is vital to Red Sox chances. Setup guys performing like Okajima has are hard to find. There's no other bridge to Jonathan Papelbon on the staff. Not Mike Timlin. Not Kyle Snyder, Not Brendan Donnelly (yet). Not Joel Pineiro.
If Manny Delcarmen has settled into the seventh-inning guy like it appears, all the better.
There's no question all eyes will turn to David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, who have to come out smokin'. Even if they do, they won't be putting up something like 70 homers and 240-250 RBI, a combined total that's not foreign to them. Ortiz has been bothered by a sore right knee that may require postseason surgery, a condition that's worth keeping an eye on. Nothing much bothers Ramirez that we know of, even though he's been underwhelming. Could it be the start of a decline for Manny, at 35? Or is the best yet to come?
If Ramirez and Ortiz don't go crazy from here out, they at least have to approach what they've done in the past. With the two sluggers hitting, pressure is taken off Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell. Both produced beyond expectations in the first half, and so did Dustin Pedroia. But Pedroia is new at all this. Can he keep it going? Also keep in mind that Youkilis and Lowell tailed off in the second half last season.
Things could get rough for J.D. Drew, whose bat so far has had more defects than the Big Dig. The fans' patience with Drew has been governed by the big lead in the standings. Unless he starts hitting, he won't be so lucky escaping the wrath of the Fenway faithful, especially if the race tightens up. The boos for Julio Lugo have already begun.
Of course, here's three words you don't want to hear: Wily Mo Pena.
There are 12 weeks left. If Schilling, Ortiz and Ramirez produce, the Red Sox should be fine. If they don't ... well, let's just say it's going to work out anyway.
Don't you think?
Lenny Megliola is a MetroWest Daily News columnist. His e-mail is email@example.com.