Ordinarily, completing a three-game road series against the defending world champions means the most demanding stretch of schedule is over.
Instead, for the Red Sox, it's just beginning.
Starting Friday, the Red Sox begin a patch in which they play 16 games, 13 of which are against playoff-caliber teams. There's three with Cleveland starting Friday, preceding a three-game set with Colorado. Then it's on the road for three in Toronto followed by four in Baltimore, capped by a home series for three with Toronto again.
In recent weeks, before their trip to Kansas City, the Red Sox had the good fortune to face a series of teams that weren't playing well at the time (Houston, for a total of seven games) or aren't very good in the first place (Oakland, three games).
During that stretch, the Red Sox lit up the scoreboard at Fenway like a pinball machine, averging more than 10 runs per game.
The quality of the opposition -- or more accurately, lack thereof -- helped camoflage the fact that the Red Sox pitching was uneven. That fact doesn't seem to matter as much when you're regularly posting double digits in runs and piling up extra-base hits.
But the three-game set in Kansas City served as a reminder that not every opponent is a willing patsty, existing solely to serve up batting practice.
Cleveland, Toronto and Baltimore all rank in the top six in pitching in the American League, ahead of the Red Sox, suggesting that the days of winning games by bludgeoning the opponent into submission -- as the Sox did with the A's and Astros -- is, temporarily at least, over.
Even Colorado's pitching can be a challenge -- outside of Coors Field. The Rockies' staff is currently fourth in the N.L. on the road.
And it isn't as if the Red Sox don't face pitching challenges of their own. While Wednesday's day-night doubleheader featured two strong performances from starting pitchers -- a complete-game loss by Steven Wright in the afternoon, followed by 7 1/3 strong innings from David Price in the nightcap -- the rotation has been uneven of late.
Rick Porcello had his worst start of the season Tuesday night in the opener with the Royals, and Clay Buchholz has exactly one (1) quality start in seven weeks.
The reinforcements to the staff, long promised, have been slowed. Yes, Joe Kelly is set to return to the rotation Saturday but, given his career-long inconsistency, can hardly be viewed as any kind of savior.
Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, isn't coming back anytime soon. It was thought that Rodriguez was nearing the end of his rehab assignment, but the Sox announced Tuesday that he was still experiencing soreness in his right knee.
Rodriguez first injured the knee on Feb. 27 and it's anyone's guess when he'll be back in the rotation. What's clear is, it isn't going to happen anytime soon.
There are further complications with Carson Smith, too. Smith has made only three appearances in relief since returning from the DL better than two weeks ago, and on Wednesday John Farrell revealed that he's still experiencing issues with his forearm. Smith first walked off the mound March 21, and two months later, still isn't right.
Carson was obtained in the offseason to bolster the bullpen and add another late-inning weapon with swing-and-miss stuff, but hasn't been healthy enough to contribute.
To date, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa have been reliable in set-up roles. Tazawa has been brilliant (1.65 ERA; 0.86 WHIP; .161 batting average against) while Uehara has overcome two poor outings (at home against Tampa Bay on Patriots Day, and Tuesday night in Kansas City) to otherwise pitch well.
But the Sox can't continue to rely on a 41-year-old (Uehara) or a reliever who has burned out in Augsut in each of the last two seasons (Tazawa) to handle the high-leverage spots alone. With Smith's availabity very much in doubt for the near future, somone else -- Matt Barnes? -- must step forward.
There's a old saying in baseball that the season doesn't really get started until Memorial Day. But given the upcoming schedule and the absence of any immediate pitching help, the Red Sox' real first test starts now.