June is the month, just after Memorial Day, when you get an idea.

Who is pretty good? Who is good? And who is really good?

Out of the six division winners, five of them (Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Atlanta and Milwaukee) were in first place on June 1. The other, the Los Angeles Dodger, finished tied for first before winning the seeding game with Colorado. So basically, June 1 is a pretty good barometer.

And the Red Sox are tied with the Oakland A's for the last Wild Card spot in the American League.

The Red Sox are in third place, four games behind second place Tampa Bay and six and a half games behind the first place Yankees. Basically, they are in decent shape.

Well, here are some keys, in June, if the Red Sox are going to make a run at the Yankees, hoping to stay out of that one-game Wild Card:

1. Chavis is the man

The bad news is there is that Dustin Pedroia is probably done for the season, maybe his career. The good new is Michael Chavis appears ready to be "the guy" there.

The 23-year-old infielder hasn't been afraid to show some personality. He's provided some of the best soundbites of the season, and Chavis' manager has taken notice of his comfort level.

"I think he’s a good interview from what I’ve heard," Cora said. "He’s honest. I think people like it. He’s very likable. You saw what happened with the kid, with the PA announcer and all of that. He had a blast with it. He’s having fun with it and not in a bad way."

His homerun run, 10 in 33 games, is just what this one-struggling lineup needed.

2. More off-speed from bullpen

Alex Cora's high-leverage relievers are throwing opponents a curveball.

Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Marcus Walden are championing a surprisingly simple plan of attack: If you've got a nasty secondary pitch, keep throwing it.

Hitters are more likely to see a curve ball than anything else from Barnes, who had thrown the pitch 55% of the time coming into last night, second most of any pitcher in the majors. Workman's hook was used 47% of the time, No. 5 in the MLB, and for Walden, it's a newly sharpened slider coming in at 42%.

It's an obvious philosophical change as these are far and away career highs for all three men — and it's an effective one. They combined for just 12 earned runs in their first 66 2/3 innings of work (1.62 ERA).

3. E-Rod ups his game

While the inconsistent Eduardo Rodriguez appears to be back, it hasn't come with a big price ... yet.

The bottom line is the Red Sox play well when he pitches, now winning eight of his last nine starts, despite him not getting into the seventh inning all but one of those outings.

He is the Red Sox No. 5 guy, with No. 2 or 3 stuff. If the Red Sox make a run at both the Rays and, eventually, the Yankees, E-Rod will have to be good. And that means pitching more than five innings.

The Sox bullpen is still an issue (more on that later), but cutting their time down by an inning or two would help.


4. Need Nate to be good

At some point, Nathan Eovaldi will have to be "Nate the Great." For now, though, "Nate the Good" will be enough as he works his way back.

The Red Sox rotation is expected to get a big boost relatively soon as Eovaldi threw a bullpen session last week for the first time since having surgery on his throwing elbow.

Everything went according to plan, but Cora explained taking a cautious approach is paramount to the hard-throwing Texan returning the right way — whether he likes it or not.

"The feedback was great," Cora said. "He threw cutters, fastballs and splits actually, 35 pitches. This is a guy, as everybody knows we have to make sure we slow him down, because if it was up to him, the progress would be very fast. ... I think it’s how physical he is, what kind of athlete he is."

5. 'MVP' Devers adds to game

Run Raffy run.

Here's a strange but true fact: Entering last week Rafael Devers (six) had stolen more bases than Mookie Betts (four), who joined the 30-30 club during his MVP season.

Devers actually leads the team in steals and has already eclipsed his total from all of 2018 (five).

This adds another part to the Red Sox arsenal. The 22-year-old is adding to his game, leading the team in batting average (.327), while tied for third in RBI (31) and, even more remarkable, ranking seventh in strikeouts. 

A year ago, playing only 121 games he ranked third on the team. His approach is growing right before our eyes.

6. Andrew needs to elevate game

Like most lefties, Andrew Benintendi has always slashed better against right-handed pitchers, but thus far this season, he's really struggling to hit southpaws.

The outfielder is hitting just over .200 against lefties, and hadn't hit for power either, with just three extra-base hits. However, he's still working walks, and his .373 on-base percentage is actually better than his mark against righties.

Benintendi, overall, has been a disappointment in 2019. He has shown All-Star-like tendencies the first two seasons, but hitting .256 with 22 RBI doesn't cut it. 

A big June out of him, gets his numbers closer to expectations and gets the Red Sox a few more wins.



Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at cmason@northofboston.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason