Before pondering the path ahead for these Boston Red Sox, let’s look back at the first half of the season.

In our season preview in April, there was no mention of Steven Wright or Sandy Leon. Our words about David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. contained doubt, whether Ortiz could stay strong at age 40 and if Bradley could even remain in the lineup.

Hmm. We seemed to miss the mark there. But, dear reader, did you do any better with your predictions?

Did you have Wright pegged as an All-Star with a league-leading 2.68 ERA?

How about Bradley making the All-Star Game while batting .296 with a .926 OPS?

You figured Ortiz leading the majors in OPS (1.107) with 22 home runs and 34 doubles?

And Leon as Boston’s No. 1 catcher by July, batting .455?

You predicted all that?


Our preview did say Boston would win 87 games, and we may be close. The Red Sox are on track to win 91.

Is that enough to win a division title? Feasible. A wild-card berth? Maybe.

So much of Boston’s success rides on the roster holding up. Everyone needs to produce, including the young core group of Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Bradley and Travis Shaw.

Here is a look at other players we think will be key in the second half:

Eduardo Rodriguez. Is he fixed? Rodriguez has the potential to be a No. 2 starter, but Boston will settle for No. 4 after his 8.59 ERA in six starts. He has been blamed for tipping pitches and poor execution of his delivery. He was sent down to Pawtucket, where he made two starts.

“Required, needed adjustments have been made,” Manager John Farrell said.

To prove the point – or maybe to get Rodriguez’s attention – Rodriguez will start the first game out of the All-Star break Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

Boston's David Price allowed just six hits and two earned runs in seven innings Friday night but took the loss against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

David Price: Has to give more Associated Press/Elise Amendola

David Price. We have mentioned it before but it is so important: The Red Sox need more out of their ace. His 4.34 ERA is not cutting it, nor is Boston’s 11-8 record in his starts.

Starter TBA. Yes, Farrell said he would work Clay Buchholz (3-9, 5.91) back into the rotation. But team president Dave Dombrowski also said he’s looking to trade for a starting pitcher (San Diego’s Drew Pomeranz seems like a good fit). Farrell knows there are huge problems with the four and five spots in the rotation.

“Thirty-three starts made by six guys in those two spots, and just over 150 innings pitched,” he said. “We have to improve upon that, to get where this team, I feel, can get to – and that is to not only to contend throughout the season but to play into the postseason. We’re working on that.”

Matt Barnes showed late in the 2015 season that he can be effective as a reliever. Now the Red Sox hope he’ll be a permanent bullpen fixture.

Matt Barnes: Filling a bigger role Associated Press The Associated Press

Matt Barnes. Once a mere part of the bullpen, Barnes is being called upon in more high-leverage situations. He pitched the eighth inning in close games last weekend – three strikeouts and a walk Friday, and a 1-2-3 inning Saturday.

“And he looked comfortable,” Farrell said. “The velocity that Barnes has picked up was unforeseen. Now all of a sudden we’re looking at a guy in the high 90s with a put-away curveball that he’s doing a better job at putting over for strikes.”

Brad Ziegler. He was an important pickup for Dombrowski, even before the news of Craig Kimbrel’s knee surgery (out three to six weeks, we’re told). Ziegler’s ability to induce groundouts is rare among Boston’s bullpen. Plus he has closer experience, which Boston needs, no matter how much confidence Farrell says he has in Koji Uehara (4.81 ERA, eight home runs allowed).

David Ortiz. At 40 years old with aching feet, he’s already exceeding expectations this season. Ortiz’s ability to continue this unprecedented run is essential.

Boston’s Hanley Ramirez grimaces and looks at his left hand after getting hit on the base path by a ball hit by teammate Xander Bogaerts in the fifth inning. Ramirez left the game after getting hit. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia left one inning later with a hamstring injury.

Hanley Ramirez: Can he stay healthy? Associated Press The Associated Press

Hanley Ramirez. His play at first has calmed many, though his bat has been streaky (.305 in May, .229 in June, .500 in July). Sustainability – in production and in health – is the issue. Ramirez, 32, hasn’t played more than 128 games in a season since 2012.

Joe Kelly. What a bonus this would be if Kelly could morph into a dominant back-end reliever. Can Kelly, inconsistent as a starter, master his 100 mph fastball and secondary pitches in shorter stints?

Sandy Leon. He’s been a godsend at catcher. Christian Vazquez was hurting Boston with his offense (.226 with a .583 OPS), Blake Swihart’s injured ankle likely will prevent him from catching again this season and Ryan Hanigan (.189/.480) is, frankly, only a backup. Yes, it’s a relatively small sample size, but Leon has thrown out 6 of 15 baserunners (40 percent) and also is 25 for 55 as a switch hitter. How long can he keep this up?

Brock Holt. His concussion kept him out of the lineup for six weeks. When he plays, the Red Sox are 35-12. When he doesn’t, they are 14-26.

“He’s a heady player. And usually he’s involved in a play that will be meaningful,” Farrell said.

Dustin Pedroia. The team’s veteran sparkplug is batting .304/.806 in 85 games. Pedroia, 32, is tough but not immune to injuries, playing 93 games last year and 135 in 2014.

Three factors to consider in the second half:

The schedule: Boston played 50 home games (30-20) before the break and only 37 away (19-18). The Red Sox need to win on the road to contend. Fatigue may play a factor with four long trips in the second half, two on the west coast.

“That’s where the depth of the roster will start to show its importance,” Farrell said, adding that he’ll adjust workout and pregame schedules to allow for more rest.

Win close games: Boston’s offense can clobber teams but the Red Sox are just 10-9 in one-run games after starting the season 5-9. Strong pitching – holding leads or keeping Boston in the game – is a must.

Beating the Yankees. The Red Sox are a mediocre 19-19 against the AL East. They will face Toronto six more times, Baltimore nine and Tampa Bay 10. The Red Sox are 4-2 against the Yankess this year – and they play New York 13 more times. Boston’s final 23 games are within the division.

For the first time since 2013, the Red Sox might play meaningful games in September.

And we haven’t even mentioned October. Care to make a prediction?