Don’t think I haven’t noticed that two factions of the Red Sox fan base have gone radio silent lately, even on the actual radio:
1. The trade-Xander-Bogaerts-because-he’s-overrated/inconsistent/soft crowd.
2. The this-could-be-’78-all-over-again ninnies who remember that Don Zimmer misguided disaster from 40 years ago better than they do 2004, ’07, or ’13, probably by choice.
Bogaerts’s unheralded superstar season — he’s slashing .291/.363/.528 with 21 homers, 93 RBIs, and 41 doubles after going 8 for 12 in the three-game set with the Astros — is a victory lap for another day.
It should be noted, however, that Bogaerts was central in the Red Sox’ 6-5 victory Sunday with four hits, a win that let the Red Sox avoid a sweep by the defending World Series champions. He also had an assist that probably shouldn’t have been when his high relay to the plate in the seventh led to Jose Altuve being called out, a bad call that replay did not overturn.
Bogaerts is so good that even his mistakes are beneficial, in this case getting a crucial out and reminding us that replay in baseball rots.
As for the victory, well, it seems incongruous to say this about a team that is 98-46, has an 8½- game lead in its division with 18 games remaining, and has already matched the regular-season win total of the vaunted ’04 champs, but they are really adept at salvaging things when they start to go wrong.
This Houston series wasn’t the first recent occurrence of this. After losing the first two of a four-game set with Terry Francona’s Indians Aug. 20-23, the Red Sox rallied to split the series by outscoring Cleveland, 17-4, over the final pair of games.
Immediately following that series, they were swept in three by the feisty Tampa Bay Rays, then looked like they were headed for a legitimate losing streak when Derek Jeter’s junk-heap Marlins rallied to take a late lead in their next game.
But the Sox scored three in the eighth to retake the lead, and after Craig Kimbrel ceded the tying run in the ninth, Edwardo Nunez won it in the bottom half on a walkoff . . . throwing error by the shortstop.
Hey, it’s still a walkoff, it’s still a win, and it sure as heck was one they needed. The Gatorade bucket was just as cold, you know?
This resilience ought to serve the Red Sox well in the playoffs. Listen, I know they have issues to sort out. I’m Team Leon as far as the catching situation goes, but he’s averaging about two hits a week lately. I’m certain Chris Sale will pitch well when he returns Tuesday night, but we can exhale only when it’s confirmed that there is just normal soreness in his left shoulder the following day.
And yes, the bullpen remains a fire without an extinguisher. Kimbrel and Matt Barnes walk too many batters, and those two are their best options, provided Barnes’s hip injury isn’t serious. Ryan Brasier isn’t going to be K-Rod in ’02. And the only time I want to see Joe Kelly in the playoffs is as a member of the 2013 Cardinals.
The Red Sox are World Series favorites in Las Vegas, and they should be based on who they have been this season. But the only time I’ve been certain that a team would win the World Series was 20 years ago, when the ’98 Yankees won 114 games and assembled basically the perfect roster.
Postseason baseball is designed for chaos. There are three or four teams every year, perhaps more, that have a legitimate chance at emerging as the champ. The reality is that the Red Sox are going to have to beat two really good teams, plus the National League champion. They can win the World Series. They have as good a chance as anyone, even Houston.
Of course, the Astros and Indians will face each other in the Division Series round, which means that one talented nuisance or another will be wiped out before they can play the Sox.
As for the Yankees? They’re 21-17 since Aug. 1, and have failed to capitalize on any of the Red Sox’ brief hiccups. We’re all anticipating the first Red Sox-Yankees postseason clash since 2004. It’s overdue. But I’m starting to think the Red Sox, who have held up their end of the bargain all year in every way, will be the only one of the two rivals to show up for it.
Gee, that first Red Sox-A’s postseason series since 2003 would feel awfully anticlimactic, wouldn’t it?