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xtra xtra!
Posted July 14, 2005

Sox Looking Good at Halfway Point

By Paul Noonan
     It never hurts when you don’t go on a long cold streak, and the Sox have been living proof of that so far this season. While the Yanks and O’s have each had their cold slumps, the Sox have stayed at least mild throughout the first half of their title defending season. Their solid play has lead to a two game lead in the AL East going into the All- Star break even though they dropped three of four to the Orioles this past weekend. The Sox may have fizzled a little before the break, but they still have the AL East lead and look to be in good shape as they head into the decisive months.

      With guys like Damon, Ortiz and Manny garnering early MVP talk and Matt Clement, a last minute All- Star addition, earning some Cy Young talk the Red Sox have had some strong individual performances which have helped secure their first place spot. Meanwhile, many of the familiar names have pitched in their share as well this season, with Varitek and Nixon having some hot streaks. Tim Wakefield has been phenomenal this season minus one five game cold streak, and new additions Wells and Miller have helped more than hurt the Sox. Meanwhile, the hated Yankees have seen many of their stars (except A- Rod) struggle quite often this season. Jason Giambi is batting in the bottom of the order, Gary Sheffield hasn’t been a huge factor, Derek Jeter won’t be going to the midsummer classic for the first time in years, and the Big Unit has not been dominant in most of his starts. Yet the fact of the matter is the Yankees have still battled back from their early season woes to remain within range of the AL East’s top spot, nipping on the O’s heels and consequently threatening the Sox’s lead as well. One of the two teams will start their second half on a positive note when the rivals meet up following the All- Star break in a four game showdown which could see the Sox pull away a little bit or the Yankees close the gap or overtake the Sox for the division.

      More importantly, the second half will bring some more changes to the Red Sox. The last two weeks have been full of drama with many words being said and some roster changes which may have been an underlying cause for the Sox’s recent slipping. With Foule now on the DL and Schilling about to return, the Sox’s closer position has been a cause of recent debates, and may be a bit of a nuisance in the forthcoming weeks. Where Schilling or any member of the starting rotation ends up for the rest of the season has yet to be determined, and it seems like everyone is on the list to go either way. There also have been trade rumors surrounding the Sox, the most serious one involving Jay Payton. With Theo Epstein steering the ship you can be sure the Sox will make a move or two in the next few weeks. Furthermore, the upcoming series with the Yankees may also determine how many moves the Sox make. A successful series may leave Epstein content, whereas a poor showing may lead Theo to wheel and deal even more. One thing that appears definite is that the Sox will make at least one addition to their struggling bullpen. For now, Sox fans can enjoy a more relaxing All- Star break as the hometown team sits atop their division, while the Sox brass will be working overtime to ensure a return trip to the playoffs.

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