Opponents keeping Sox on their toes

BOSTON -- The Orioles represent the fifth straight opponent for Boston that has playoff aspirations and, therefore, plenty for which to play. That may be a factor in the Red Sox’s ability to put their foot on the gas in September.

“It’s caused us, or it’s forced us, to remain focused,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “We can’t take anything for granted and in a way it keeps us accountable to our work based on the level of competition and who we’re playing that are in that contention. I think more than anything it speaks to the strength of the division.”

About the division, the Sox own a nine-game advantage on second-place Tampa Bay entering Tuesday. The division has not finished with a double-digit margin between first and second since 2006. The Sox certainly have surprised many with their turnaround in 2013, but they have positively shocked observers with the manner in which they have run away from a formidable group.

“I think everyone, back in January, when a lot of the moves were made by respective teams, everybody felt like this division was completely up for grabs and we were of the same mindset,” Farrell said. “Injuries, performance obviously directly impacts how things unfold. Am I surprised with the way we’ve played? Not at all.”