There were 100 games remaining for the Boston Red Sox when they played the Phillies on Monday night at Fenway Park.

Boston, which opened a two-game home series with Philadelphia, was four games in back of the first-place Yankees – the largest lead New York has held this season.

There’s no doubt the American League East is the best division in baseball. It’s the only division with four teams at .500 or better. The Blue Jays were the only team in the division with a losing record – and they were just a game under .500.

Yes, it’s a very good division. No, the Red Sox have not matched up favorably with the beasts of the East. At least not yet. Boston is 13-15 in the East this season, 21-12 against everyone else.

Overall, the Red Sox feel they are trending in the right direction, and rightly so. They entered the week having won 13 of 20 games and have the third-best record in the American League. Yet in that 13-7 stretch they were 3-4 against the Yankees and Orioles. Another reminder that the chasm between the East and The Rest is wide indeed.

The good news here is the Sox get their next four games against the team with the worst record in the major leagues. The Phillies arrived at Fenway Park with a five-game losing streak and a long road ahead in their efforts to rebuild.


The bad news is the Sox have more games remaining within the division than any other AL East team. They have 44 intradivisional games remaining, including 14 against the Yankees.

Last week the Sox lost two of three in The Bronx, and were outscored 17-1 over the final two games. It was a humbling visit to New York, and a reminder that the so-called Baby Bombers are for real. Aaron Judge has hit a major league-leading 21 home runs this season, including a 495-foot shot on Sunday – the longest homer in the majors this season. Catching phenom Gary Sanchez hit his 10th on Sunday.

Meantime, the Red Sox don’t have a single player with 10 homers. They expected to compete based on the strength of a strong starting rotation led by the Big Three of Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. That trio was just a game over .500 after Porcello’s start Monday night. That’s not good enough for a top of the rotation that was hyped to be one of the best in the game.

Could President Dave Dombrowski find himself looking for a starting pitcher before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline? He might have to. A far more important need might be third base, where the Sox have committed more errors than any other team. It was glaring that Pablo Sandoval – with two years and $36 million left on his contract after 2017 – was kept out of the lineup for two straight nights against the Tigers as he worked on infield defense with Coach Brian Butterfield.

Adding a third baseman with power would provide a tremendous boost to the offense, but Dombrowski doesn’t want to lock up a long-term solution to that problem with Rafael Devers rapidly working his way up through the system. He’ll also be careful not to clear out much more in the way of prospects, after trading away 18 of them in the last two years.

Those trades were made to build a team that could contend now. At this point they’ve shown they can beat weaker teams with regularity. Sometime soon they’ll have to prove they can beat the mettle of the AL East. In the coming weeks Dombrowski will need to provide some help for them to do it.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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