Opposite dugout: Red Sox readying themselves for postseason

red-sox-square.jpgManager: Alex Cora (1st season)

Record: 105-51

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: DH J.D. Martinez (41 HR, 124 RBIs, .329/.401/.624), RF Mookie Betts (.343/.434/.636, 28 SB), LF Andrew Benintendi (.283/.361/.460, 20 SB), 1B Steve Pearce (.282/.397/.500), LHP Chris Sale (2.00 ERA), RHP Craig Kimbrel (42 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: 14-2

Pitching probables:

Sept. 24: RHP Dylan Bundy (8-15) vs RHP Nathan Eovaldi (5-7), 7:10 p.m., MASN
Sept. 25: TBA vs. LHP David Price (15-7), 7:10 p.m., MASN
Sept. 26: RHP Yefry Ramírez (1-7) vs. LHP Chris Sale (12-4), 7:10 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Red Sox:

In the regular season’s final week the Red Sox, owners of the best record in the major leagues, will walk the fine line between staying healthy for the playoffs and not downshifting so much that they go into the postseason flat. Their attention seemed to drift Aug. 19-26, as they dropped six of eight games. In September so far, they’ve gone 12-8, still not up to the 3-to-1 win-loss ratio they’ve achieved in 2018.

The Sox benefit immensely from the friendly competition between designated hitter J.D. Martinez and right fielder Mookie Betts for the American League batting title. Betts appears to have built an insurmountable lead over his teammate with his .343 batting average (Martinez’s now stands at .329), but for a while there, Martinez was making a serious run at the Triple Crown. He still has an outside shot at the league’s top home run mark (Oakland’s Khris Davis is ahead 45-41). Martinez leads Davis in RBIs 124-119. Betts, meanwhile, also leads his club in stolen bases with 28. With two talents of that caliber wowing crowds every night, even the Fenway faithful might overlook left fielder Andrew Benintendi. Still just 24, the Red Sox’s first-round pick in 2015 is second to Betts for the club lead in stolen bases and third in batting average (among Red Sox players with more than 150 at-bats) behind Betts and Martinez. Add center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (.231/.311/.402, 16 SB) and you’ve got a group with the speed to cover a whole lot of ground in the quirky confines of Fenway Park. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts (.285/.356/.509) has had a good September, hitting .305, but is now day-to-day after tweaking his shoulder during an at-bat in last night’s extra-inning loss to the Indians. Third baseman Rafael Devers, 21, took a five-game hitting streak into last night before 0-for-4 against Adam Plutko and the Indians. First baseman/designated hitter Steve Pearce has proved an invaluable role player for manager Alex Cora’s crew. Veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland’s home run total of 15 going into the last week of the regular season is a tick below those of his last three campaigns (23, 22 and 22), but he’s still dangerous.

Nathan Eovaldi (3.98 ERA), who starts for the Sox in the first game of a six-game, season-ending homestand, has struggled lately, going 0-3 since the Orioles scored eight off him over 2 2/3 innings on Aug. 10 (the Sox ended up winning that game, 19-12). From Aug. 31 through Sept. 11, the right-hander did not go further into a game than 3 2/3 innings. He handed in a quality start in his last outing, however, allowing two hits and two walks over six innings at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 18. Lefty David Price (3.53) starts the middle game of this series. Price took the loss at New York on Sept. 19, giving up four earned runs (six total) over 5 1/3 innings and breaking a string of six wins without a loss dating to Aug. 11 at Camden Yards. As he starts the finale on Wednesday, southpaw Chris Sale appears ready to put in a full day’s work after being eased back into the grind following seven and a half weeks on the disabled list (interrupted by a five-inning outing at Baltimore in which he struck out 12 but apparently reaggravated his shoulder inflammation). Sale - currently vying for the American League Cy Young Award with his microscopic 2.00 ERA - has pitched outings of one, three and 3 1/3 innings in September. In his last appearance, he gave up two runs on five hits to the Indians, but struck out seven.

Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel (2.21 ERA) trails only the Mariners’ Edwin Diaz in saves in the American League. His last blown save happened Aug. 28 at home against the Marlins. He ended up with the win in that game. Since then, Kimbrel has pitched a total of eight innings, giving up just one hit and no runs while striking out 12 and walking only three.

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