By Matt Straub
To hear the Boston media tell it, these four games will determine the fate of the Red Sox’ season. I’ve talked about Boston’s need to get out of its rut soon on several occasions now, but a funny thing has happened on the way to a mediocre first 50 games. Boston finds itself very much alive, just four games back of the Yankees in the AL East. So while the need to stop messing around is coming soon, the clamoring to fire everyone and trade half the team night be premature. Boston hasn’t shown itself to be a contender yet, but every time I say it can’t afford to drop many more, it manages to tread water and stay in the hunt.
This weekend is another of those crossroads series. Yes, another bad weekend will have the buzzards circling again, but a split on the road against a hot team would buy the Red Sox a few more days to figure it all out. Of course, winning this four-game set against the Texas Rangers could propel the team into a nice stretch, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
Here’s a look at the latest of countless big weekends for the Sox.
Boston Red Sox (21-26 5th place AL East)
at Texas Rangers (23-24, 4th place AL West)
Thursday, 8:05 p.m.
Eduardo Rodriguez (0-0, 0.00) vs. Nick Martinez (4-0, 1.96)
Friday, 8:05 p.m.
Steven Wright (2-1, 3.68) vs. Yovani Gallardo (4-6, 4.13)
Saturday, 7:15 p.m.
Wade Miley (4-4, 4.47) vs. TBA
Sunday, 3:05 p.m.
Joe Kelly (1-4, 6.24) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (2-2, 3.60)
The Rangers have won eight of their last 10 and surged back to respectability. In the East they’d be a factor, in the West they still have a big hill to climb to catch the red-hot Astros. The Red Sox were just swept by the Twins, which isn’t as bad as it would have been in the last couple of years, but did nothing to inspire any confidence the Red Sox can get themselves into any kind of serious contention.
Three Rangers To Watch
1. Josh Hamilton plays his first home game for the Rangers since 2012 tonight. The troubled slugger is back with the Rangers after flaming out with the Angels, a fall which included another relapse in his battle with drug addiction. The Rangers hope Hamilton returning to the team he became a star with gets his career (and life) back on track, but he was terrible in his first road trip with the team.
2. Prince Fielder is healthy, motivated, and killing baseballs. He leads the AL in batting average in .368 and already has 38 RBI. His offense is a big reason the Rangers are still alive after a slow start, and he will be the biggest problem for the Sox this weekend.
3. Adrian Beltre continues to be an ageless wonder, contributing to the Rangers offensive years after Boston decided not to keep him around in one of a string of terrible roster decisions.
Boston comes home for a needed homestand starting with the Twins Monday.