Red Sox

Red Sox Second Half Primer: Players, developments, games, call-ups & trades to watch for

There are still (at least) 72 games remaining in the 2019 Red Sox season, with some significant ground to make up in the standings.

Some areas — pitching, most obviously — need improvement. Others — offense, for one — seem largely set for now.

A lot can still happen in the final two and a half-months remaining. Here's a look at what lies ahead on a number of fronts:

THREE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS:

Chris Sale: Sale was dominant at times in the first half (17-strikeout game vs. Colorado), but not nearly as consistent as the Sox needed him to be. If Sale can't regain his status as a true No. 1 starter, it's hard to imagine the Red Sox getting to the postseason.

Mookie Betts: Consider Betts to be the position player version of Sale - a highly important player who didn't play to his capability in the first half. In the final week of the first half, Betts began driving the ball more regularly and having an impact early in the game. If that continues, the Red Sox will be a force.

Matt Barnes: Barnes had a brutal month of June (9.69 ERA), but it's easy to forget how good Barnes was in April (2.25 ERA) and May (1.86). It's likely that his slump in June was the result of over-use. Barnes remains the Red Sox' most important reliever, capable of shutting down opponents' most dangerous hitters. If he gets some help (from Nathan Eovaldi or a July trade acquisition), he could be invaluable.

THREE DEVELOPMENTS TO WATCH