The Red Sox’ 15-5 win in Colorado Wednesday night was Boston’s 15th win in the month of September, more than double the output of the same month the last two seasons combined.
The great collapse of 2011 produced only seven wins during the final month of the regular season, the same number of wins that Bobby Valentine’s band of quitters came up with last year. In fact, it is Boston’s first 15-win month of September since 2009, not coincidentally, the last time the Sox made the postseason. With a sweep in Baltimore, Boston will reach 18 wins in the month for the first time since 2004.
In fact, the only season of the past decade in which the Sox had as many as 16 wins in September and didn’t advance to the American League Championship Series was in 2005 (17). In addition to the 2004 mark, Boston reached 17 wins in 2003 (ALCS), and 16 wins in both 2007 (World Series) and 2008 (ALCS). That may seem somewhat menial, but it is still somewhat of a testament to how a team finishes down the stretch, something that had been abhorrent in Boston the last two seasons.
Not the case in 2013, with the Red Sox battling it out with the Oakland A’s for the best record in the American League for the right to face the wild-card team, which will be Texas (1 game out), Cleveland or Tampa Bay. Only two games separate the Rays from the Rangers in the standings, one between the Indians and Rays. Boston’s cushion on the A’s became a little more comfortable on Wednesday, when the Angels beat the A’s, 3-1, which coupled with Boston’s win gave the Sox a two-game lead on Oakland with three to play.
It should be a slam dunk, but the Red Sox have shown the last few years to have trouble with the Orioles, who particularly took glee by knocking the Sox out of the hunt in 2011. Baltimore is the only team Boston has played more than seven times this season only to have a losing record (7-9). Then again, the A’s have to travel to Seattle, a team against which Oakland is only 6-10 this season. (The A’s also run into Felix Hernandez, 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA against Oakland this season, on Friday night.
The Red Sox will have their playoff rotation 1-2-3 (though perhaps not in that order) of Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, and John Lackey going this weekend in Baltimore, with the worry of resting their arms for the ALDS out the window. Boston won’t host the ALDS until Friday, with the wild card play-in game slated for Wednesday, which will give Lester a full five days rest prior to his expected Game 1 start. More concerning is that Peavy, if he’s the Game 4 starter, won’t pitch again for almost two weeks in the wake of his final start of the regular season in Colorado. That’s one long layoff.
But you win the division for that sort of perk, though if any team in the AL could survive having to play the play-in game, then making a run to the World Series, it’s probably the Red Sox based on the depth and capability of their cloned starting staff. How’d you like to be Tampa Bay, having to pitch David Price on Wednesday just to get to the ALDS? That would mean the Rays’ ace would potentially be available to pitch only once against the Red Sox, which is why Tampa, while likely the team you least want to face, wouldn’t pose as much of a challenge as they would as division winners.
Cleveland likely presents the easiest route for Boston, not to mention a bulk load of story lines with Terry Francona returning to Boston. Texas? Just let the collapse complete itself already, will ya?
Of course, the Sox need to maintain their lead over Oakland for any of that happen in the first place. Otherwise, they draw the Tigers in a five-game series with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer drawing Games 1 and 2. Shiver.
That’s not going to happen though. On Wednesday, the scaled tipped and the Red Sox will host the wild card winner one week from Friday, rested, ready, and their September rebound in the rear mirror.
Never has four years seemed such an eternity.