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Touching All the Bases

Are the Red Sox Capable of Making Those of Us Who Gave Up On Them Regret Doing So?

2014-07-22T014203Z_1891641776_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_MLB-BOSTON-RED-SOX-AT-TORONTO-BLUE-JAYS.jpg

This Red Sox team is starting to make me root for regret.

I'm not sure that even makes sense, but then, not much has during this weirdo Red Sox season.

Here's what I mean:

Fourteen days ago, I caught up to the consensus and wrote that this year's Red Sox are a lost cause.The Red Sox obliged my opinion that night, losing to the White Sox to drop to 39-51, which left them in the basement in the American League East, 10.5 games back of the division-leading Orioles and 10 behind Seattle for the second wild card.

They were done.

And then, they weren't.

Since that July 8 loss, all the Red Sox have done is punch a zombified fist from their shallow grave up through the ground, followed by another.

Damned if they ain't dead yet.

They've won 8 of 9 games, making up two games in the division and four in the wild card -- their deficits are now 7.5 and 6 games, respectively.

It's still a steep, long hill to climb, and there are still 10 teams in the American League with a better record.

But with their 100th game of the season on the schedule tonight against a Toronto team that appears headed for a steep and rapid fall down the standings, there is time to at least make it interesting.

I wrote this morning that this season could shape up like that of the '96 Red Sox, who started brutally, went 22-9 in August to almost sneak into fringe contention, and ran out of ball games before they could finish the job.

I still suspect that is what will happen this season as well. Even with a deep and versatile pitching staff and an offense that is coming to life (even Stephen Drew is hitting), it's going to be difficult to make up all the ground they gave away during their sluggish start to this race.

But man, they're offering more than a glimmer of hope; they're starting to resemble the dependable, excellent, drama-free ball club they were during their latest championship season.

So much needs to happen for them to make a run and put a scare back in the rest of the division. A not-so-short and hardly complete list:

Jon Lester has to continue one of the great salary drives we've ever seen ... Clay Buchholz needs to be in the second half this year what he was in the first half a year ago ... Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava have to resemble last year's versions of themselves ...

Jackie Bradley needs to keep doing what he's been doing in July ... Xander Bogaerts needs to mimic his May ... Brock Holt needs to keep pulling off all of his ridiculous BrockStar feats ...

Mike Napoli needs to go on one of his patented power tears ... Dustin Pedroia needs to start hitting a few balls off the wall if not over it. ... Rubby De La Rosa needs to continue to seize his opportunity, and the same goes for Christian Vazquez ...

Oh, and A.J. Pierzynski needs to stay away.

It's a lot to ask. It's probably too much. The Red Sox are still a 1.5 games farther away from first place than they were on June 29, when they were just six games out.

But at least they are making it interesting. At least they have planted that seed of doubt, the one that makes you wonder after each win whether you prematurely wrote them off.

Should the 2014 Red Sox somehow continue on this redemptive path all the way to contention, count me among those who would be more than happy to regret quitting on them long before they ever considered quitting on themselves.

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