The idea of "critical must-wins" is an overused concept in baseball, what with the 6-month long odyssey that usually begins in a frigid Fenway and ends (hopefully) in a Duck Boat flotilla. But the next nine road games for the Red Sox arguably fit the description. After a schizophrenic home-stand (3-2), they head off to Baltimore, Toronto and Baghdad on the Hudson. All division rivals, all capable of beating a Boston team that has yet to address its biggest—and perhaps fatal—flaw: a horrific bullpen. Already armed with a robust 28-35 road record, they need to win at least six to stay competitive with the Rays (how stupid is that?). And you just know these are all going to be gut-wrenching, down to the wire games—even with the two lowly "birds of a feather" at the bottom of the division. And the Empire? Well, they're only 5 games in back of the Sox as we start the week. Need I say more?
The first game in Camden Yards should be a good test of where this team will end up. Our new ace—Jon Lester—takes the hill Monday night, with a chance of starting the road trip off right. On the other hand, the Birds' most consistent hurler—Jeremy Guthrie—will oppose Lester. And, the hottest hitter on the planet, Melvin Mora, is waiting with his .322 average against lefties. Don't forget Millar—you know what he wants to do. When we wake up on Friday morning, August 29th, we will pretty much know if this will be another legitimate run at a championship, or just playing out the string with Jason Bay and wondering if Manny can hit .350 in La-La Land.