MLB: Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Angels

Boston's Rafael Devers, left, and Mookie Betts celebrate after beating the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Sunday.

WHILE so many New England eyes are already focused on Sunday night in Foxborough, there’s some pretty important stuff happening on Jersey Street.

We’ve been over this so many times already in this roller coaster of a season, but your Red Sox have again hit one of those crossroads in their effort to become the first repeat champs in 20 years.

After a 6-2 road trip against three teams with losing records, the Twins and Yankees, two potential postseason opponents if the Sox get that far, come to Fenway Park.

Contenders? Pretenders?

“It’s not impossible,” Alex Cora said before the finale in Anaheim Sunday.

“For us, nothing is impossible in this game. We’re very talented. That’s the same group that won a World Series. Obviously, it hasn’t happened the way we wanted, but I’ve been saying it all along: There’s different ways to get to the World Series. We took the difficult route, and we’re ready for it.”

And now, seven September games (the Yankees series actually goes through next Monday night) against real teams, with real plans. The Sox will play those games in a ballpark they usually own but have gone just 34-32 there this season.

The Red Sox played three games at Minnesota June 17-19, winning two of three, with Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez getting the wins (and the loss coming in 17 innings). Both Porcello and Rodriguez start against the Twins this week, which would line both up for the weekend against the Yankees.

The Sox, five games behind three teams — the Indians, Rays and A’s — in the hunt for two wild card spots entering Monday, are 4-11 against the Yankees but have lost the last five after smoking New York in the first three.

Tampa Bay, the leader of the four-team group, won its day game Monday and will play a doubleheader at the Trop on Tuesday to avoid the hurricane/tropical storm that could hit Wednesday.

Roster set?

The Patriots have jiggered, re-jiggered and re-jiggered again as they look at the Steelers for next Sunday night’s opener. But Monday, a chapter was officially closed and another officially opened (we think).

We talked here Sunday about rookie Jarrett Stidham winning the backup quarterback spot, with Brian Hoyer released. However, talk followed that the Pats could bring Hoyer back with a new contract. However, with old pal Jacoby Brissett the starter after Andrew Luck retired in Indianapolis, the Colts signed Hoyer to a three-year contract ($9 million guaranteed).

The Colts will be Hoyer’s eighth NFL team.

The wild weekend left fan favorite Gunner Olszewski released and then brought back. This undrafted free agent from an FCS school is just the kid of guy Bill Belichick loves. Stick him anywhere and he won’t hurt you.

After wearing Nos. 72 and 9 in his short time in New England, Olszewski has been given No. 80 — Danny Amendola’s old number. Similar-looking, scrappy guys.

Asked about the phone call that ended his brief exile, Olszewski said, “It was the best phone call of my life, man. “It was awesome. It put a smile right on my face. And I was just happy to know I had a job, and I’m ready to go to work.”

The Pats again had to put their top draft pick on IR. This time, N’Keal Harry is out, but he’s eligible to return after eight games. Putting him on the list officially opened the door for the return of Demaryius Thomas, who had been released on Saturday. We’ll see what kind of contribution the veteran can make after recovering from Achilles surgery.

Chiefly pick

Peter King, on his Football Morning In America column for NBC Sports, picked the Chiefs to face the Saints in the Super Bowl.

He had the Patriots as a No. 3 seed in the AFC.

In the piece, King wrote:

“Potentially huge loss for the Super Bowl champion Patriots on their road to repeat: center David Andrews (blood clot) for the season. Potentially heir-to-Troy-Brown story: Olszewski, a wide receiver-defensive back from Bemidji (Minn.) State. He started 42 college games for the Beavers at corner. Belichick might have another two-way demon. It cost New England a sixth-round pick for center insurance, the price to get Russell Bodine from Buffalo.”

For those who love to knock the Pats’ drafting, here’s some ammo for ya. From Zack Cox of NESN: Just 26 percent of the players the Patriots drafted from 2014 to 2018 are on their current 53-man roster. 2018: 4 of 9; 2017: 1 of 4 (Wise); 2016: 3 of 9 (Thuney, Roberts, Karras); 2015: 2 of 11 (Mason, Cardona); 2014: 1 of 9 (White).”

Promising beginning

The Celtics/USA team, missing the big stars and bearing no resemblance to a Dream Team, got off to a good start with a win over the Czechs at the FIBA World Cup and face Turkey on Tuesday night.

Remember, this is an early camp for the Celtics, with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart getting to know new leader Kemba Walker.

“Playing together so much together now (with Walker) has built up chemistry for the season,” Tatum told ESPN. “Hopefully there’s good things to come for the future.”

Walker scored 13 points under the watchful pressure of the Czech defense.

Oh yeah, they came after me,” he said. “It’s a different game than the NBA; it’s a lot more physical. We’re Team USA, we’re going to get everybody’s best shot, especially physically. Teams are going to be tough against us. We just have to hold our composure and be tough and play through everything.”

News on Papi

The New York Post did an extensive piece on what happened to David Ortiz in the shady world of the Dominican Republic.

“He is a victim,” said Rafaela Perez, 62, who pays the equivalent of $137 to rent the home Ortiz bought for his family when he started making money. “Everyone takes advantage of him because he is rich. You just don’t know what kind of people you are hanging around with, who want to take advantage of you.”

As the Ortiz case continues to be investigated — Ortiz hired Boston top cop Ed Davis to check things out — former major leaguers Octavio Dotel and Luis Castillo were both cleared after being arrested in a money laundering scheme.

As far as the whispers linking Papi to the underworld in his home country, Ortiz spokeman Joe Baerlein told the Post, “The idea that he’s going to play around the edges is laughable. This is a sophisticated guy who has many endorsements. He’s not going to risk that.”


Finally, we give you the Sunday night plight of Oklahoma assistant football coach Shane Beamer.

After the Sooners scored their first touchdown of the season — to help send them to a 49-31 win over Houston — Beamer exchanged a head butt with Jeremiah Hall, who scored the TD. The thing is: Hall was wearing a helmet and Beamer, the son of legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, needed stitches to close a gash over this left eyebrow. He also had a bump on his forehead.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.