After last season’s World Series title, the Boston Red Sox were expected to have plenty of success in the American League again this year. But they find themselves fighting for the ability to play in the postseason as they move into the second half of the season, thanks to some quality play by their competition throughout the league. Fortunately, the Sox still have a great chance to make the playoffs and defend their title, especially if they can do these things to maximize their chances.

Improve at home

Home field advantage in baseball is something that isn’t quite as powerful as it is in sports like football and basketball. But the Red Sox have missed some opportunities to be at the top of their game in Fenway Park, as they finished the first half of the season below .500 at home. Of course, dropping two games during the wild London Series counted as two home losses for the Sox, but even without those games, the Sox haven’t been as good at home as they were during last year’s title run.

A big reason for their slow start at home has been the quality of the teams they have had to play at home, specifically their competition in the American League East. The Yankees have been great this year, while the Tampa Bay Rays have been one of the league’s most pleasant surprises on the season. While MLB picks had the Red Sox storming through those teams, the formation of a three-team race in the AL East has made things difficult on the defending champs.

Keep believing

The Red Sox are right in the thick of the race for a playoff spot in the American League, even if they haven’t played up to their potential to this point in the season. But if they can continue to maintain the belief that they have developed during their recent playoff appearances, there isn’t a reason to think that they can’t overtake any team that is standing in their way to claim a wildcard spot or better.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, they are led by a manager who has belief in the team to do well. Alex Cora has stated that he still believes that the Sox can win the division, where the Sox are right around 10 games back of the first-place Yankees. That would be a difficult hill to climb, but the Sox ran up a huge lead over the Yankees in the division race last year, so it is absolutely possible that they can recover from a sizable deficit in the second half of this season.

Perhaps most important for the Red Sox is that they need to lean on their championship experience to get through these next few months with a playoff berth. If they could beat the Dodgers in the World Series last year, beating the Yankees and Astros in the playoffs to get there, there is no reason that they can’t keep winning series to overtake anyone they need to to get back into the postseason.