There's confidence. Then there's having your catcher steal home. That's how well the Red Sox are playing these days.
Champagne will be flowing at Fenway Park any day now as the Red Sox beat the Yankees, 9-2, on Sunday. The 92-59 Sox have won a stunning 23 more games than last season and still have 11 to play. Their magic number for the division is four.
The fourth inning was a good example of how the Red Sox are feeling.
With Jarrod Saltalamacchia on third and two outs in the inning, rookie Xander Bogaerts took off for second, then hesitated. Catcher Chris Stewart came up throwing and Saltalamacchia scored without a play.
The Red Sox purposely ran the play with a slow runner on third to increase the element of surprise.
“It’s definitely something I never thought would happen,” Saltalamacchia said. “I want to thank all the little people who made it happen."
Those types of plays are preparation for the postseason because they give advance scouts for other teams something to think about.
“We’re focused on every aspect of the game and making sure we’re pretty locked in,” Saltalamacchia said. “Any type of runs we can get are good.”
Saltalamacchia then laughed at what he had done. “My speed, it took over,” he said. “Jackie Robinson, [Jacoby] Ellsbury, I’m in a pretty elite category.”
The Sox had it all going on Sunday. Daniel Nava had four hits, two of them doubles. He is now hitting .306 with a .397 on-base percentage. Nava is hitting .391 since Aug 1.
Clay Buchholz wasn't sharp (four walks, a wild pitch and a throwing error) but allowed one run in six innings and got to 91 pitches. He is right on track
Even Alex Rodriguez is impressed with the Red Sox.
"Unbelievable right now. Of all the teams I’ve seen, they’ve got to be the top contenders for the World Series," he said.
A few notes:
• The Yankees have lost seven of their last 11 games. If they miss the playoffs, the Red Sox will have played a big role in that. The Sox were 13-6 against the the Yankees this season, outscoring their rivals 120-85.
That's the most wins in a season for the Sox against the Yankees since the 1973 team was 14-4. It's the most wins for any team since the 1976 Orioles went 13-5.
“Boston has done an absolute number on us. They’ve basically whipped our [butts],” Rodriguez said.
• David Ortiz took Mariano Rivera out for lunch this afternoon. "That's my man right there. A special person. I'm glad we had that ceremony," he said.
When the game was over, Rivera walked from the bullpen back to the dugout alone. Some fans behind the dugout waited to applaud him and other fans who were making their way out of Fenway turned around and joined in.
It was a very organic moment and Rivera paused several times to wave to the fans before he disappeared from view. He probably will never step foot in Fenway again and clearly wanted to take one more look around.
• Mike Napoli had an interesting night. He hit a mammoth home run in the first inning that gave the Red Sox a 3-1 lead. He has 22 homers this season, seven against the Yankees. That's the most for a Red Sox player since Jimmie Foxx had eight in 1936.
Napoli also has 89 RBIs.
Napoli also did strike out twice and now has the team record of 178 in a season. Rest easy, Mark Bellhorn.
That's a ton of strikeouts. But the .357 on-base percentage and power certainly outweigh it. Napoli also has played surprisingly well at first base.
• The Sox are 11-3 in September and have averaged 7.1 runs.
• The Sox are 32 of their last 32 on stolen bases and have 116 on the season.
• The Sox are now 50-25 at home and have won 10 of 12 at Fenway.