Monday Hat Trick: Make or break time for Sox

After two moribund summers that saw the Boston Red Sox finish in the American League East cellar, New England’s Boys of Summer are keeping Red Sox Nation faithful. At least so far.

The Sox concluded a six-game homestand Sunday with a 16-2 pasting of the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks, and start a crucial 11-game, four-city road trip with a makeup game in Cleveland on Monday.

This make it or break it trip also sees the Sox taking on fellow playoff contenders Baltimore and Detroit before finishing it up at last-place division foe Tampa Bay.

Boston currently sits two games back of the Toronto Blue Jays in the A.L. East, and if the season ended today, the Sox would travel to Camden Yards to face the Orioles in a 1-game wild card playoff.

The Sox have 46 games remaining, and only 15 of them are at Fenway Park. This road trip gives Boston an opportunity to cement itself as a playoff team, or the Sox will fall out of the postseason race all together.

Can David Price finally start pitching with consistency and like the ace that he has been his whole career? Can the pitching staff survive with Steven Wright on the disabled list with a shoulder injury? Can one of the top offenses in baseball not leave runners on base like they did on the last road trip? Can the bullpen actually hold a lead away from Fenway Park?

Those are the questions facing the Red Sox on this road trip. When I’m sitting at Fenway in a couple Saturdays, when the Sox meet Kansas City, the team could be in one of two places: In the thick of a pennant race as they are now, or just playing out a David Ortiz retirement tour.

Hopefully, for Big Papi’s sake, it’s the former. He deserves one more shot at a World Series.

– Monday marked the unofficial end of summer vacation for high school athletes throughout Maine, with the start of preseason practices for fall sports.

While I hated to see my summer vacation come to an end as a teenager, it marked the beginning of a new season. A fresh start. A chance to see if all those hot, summer days of pounding the pavement in preparation for another cross country season had paid off.

For those of us in the media, it marks an exciting time as well, a chance to see what our local high school teams have coming back, and another season on the sidelines to look forward to.

One thing I admittedly miss: Those weeklong “soccer trips” to Aroostook County I would take to cover August soccer games in northern Maine, and chase down enough feature stories to last an entire season. Somehow, in three Augusts of taking those trips, I never saw a moose on Route 1 or Route 11. But there’s nothing like pulling up to a field in Van Buren, Easton or Madawaska and seeing the entire town there on a warm, summer afternoon.

Good luck to all athletes as you start this new season, and some advice from a writer who also happens to be a fitness professional: Hydrate early and often and be sure to refuel and get plenty of rest in between workouts! Recovery is just as important as working hard.

– The first week of the Rio Olympics has provided us with some breathtaking (Michael Phelps, U.S. women’s gymnastics, Usain Bolt) and some murky (U.S. men’s basketball) performances.

The one thing that makes the Olympics – and track and field – so beautiful and inspiring is that how old you are does not mean a darned thing. Just ask the gold-medal winner in the men’s 10,000 meters, Great Britain’s Mo Farah.

The 33-year-old Farah overcame a fall in the 10,000-meter final to win his second Olympic gold at that distance.

Even after falling, Farah ran a brilliant tactical race to claim the gold, waiting patiently to start his kick with just over 100 meters to go, blowing past the competition.

Hopefully, our men’s basketball team, which slogged through pool play at 5-0, can wake up a little bit as the next round starts. If they don’t, they’ll wind up falling short of a gold medal.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.