Monday, September 14, 2009

Falling into Place

No, I'm not ready to declare that the season is over yet. Nor am I ready to say that the Red Sox are a lock for the playoffs. But what I will tell you is that they went a LONG way over the past few days at solidifying their chances for a deep playoff run. Two weeks ago, I wasn't sure this would be the case with Beckett struggling mightily, Buchholz looking good but having little track record behind him and the Sox bats wavering between scoring 10+ runs a game and none.

Fast forward to Saturday night's gritty five plus inning gem by Beckett (with the Sox bats erupting in the third inning for nine runs) followed by game one of yesterday's double header where poor Matt Garza pitched his heart out, only to get kicked in the crotch by Ortiz and Pedroia in the seventh. This combined with Lester's "ice water in the veins" eight innings of shutout ball in game two was a real shot in the arm.

So why am I so jazzed all of a sudden? Well, the Sox have a four game lead on Texas and Tampa Bay is all but eliminated from the Wild Card. And the Sox still have an outside chance at catching the Yanks (I know, I know, I sound like Kyle Flaherty here). Most importantly, Boston is looking like the dangerous offensive AND defensive team that we thought they might be at the beginning of the season.

With Beckett, Lester and now Buchholz as a solid 1-2-3 punch (yes, it would be great to see two more solid starts out of Beckett), we're in good shape to match up with the "always hapless in the playoffs" Anaheim Angels of LA. And who knows, lightning may might rise up and strike Detroit who matches up pretty well with the Yanks and deliver us an ALCS party with Detroit and Boston as the lucky entrants. The bullpen is now back to form with a much needed shot in the arm from Billy Wagner and you have weapons like Martinez, Gathright, Green or Kotchman coming off the bench. Not a bad place to be. Most importantly, all the key guys are healthy (yup, just knocked on wood after saying that).

Am I being a bit cocksure? Yes I am. But hey, I've seen Francona work his magic under more adverse conditions. I like where we are and feel bullish going into October. Who knows, this could be the year where we do actually see Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots world championships in the same year.

image courtesy:


Bryan Person said...

Also feeling pretty good after the weekend, Aaron--though the Sox almost always play much better home.

A solid Beckett-Lester-Buchholz at the top of the rotation heading into the playoffs would be tremendous. The No. 4 guy? Still up in the air at this point.

But a dose of reality here: The Red Sox aren't catching the Yankees for first place. It'd be nice, but it's not happening.

Doug Haslam said...

My takes?

- As long as we peak at the right time-- MOST parts are clicking, including:

- Enough of a rotation to get through playoffs (Who's #4? a resurgent, skinny Dice-K?

- Most of the lineup (Papi is on-off, but everyone else is contributing- V-Mart was a godsend)

- Bullpen- Wagner takes pressure off the other short-timers, tho would still like more consistency from MDC and Okajima

- As for races-- not done yet. Texas should have faded a while ago due to energy yet they hang in there. Yankees? Only 7 games ahead with 20 to play. My definition of "out of it" is "mathematically eliminated"

Derek Peplau said...

I've had a tough time knowing what to make of this team this season. Too many moving parts, injuries, and flame-outs.

Remember that time we had Adam LaRoche...that was awesome...

I think this team does have the pieces to succeed in October, the question is, in which direction will the pendulum be swinging if/when we start that first best of five (I am, at this point, relatively confident we'll at least be in the dance though I can't really say I'm there with you about taking the AL East flag...we'll need some help from our friends in the Bronx).

*IF* we can get some solid performances from Dice-K down the stretch, that would be a huge boost. He just doesn't inspire confidence in me yet, and I have retrieved the ol' fedora and bullwhip from storage in preparation for another adventure tomorrow night. Prove me wrong, Daisuke.

Wakefield may be approaching the 18th fairway, so I'm not sure how much we can rely on from him unless that back starts feeling better very soon.

For us to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy this year, this team's going to need to continue clicking for six more weeks. If I'm honest with myself, they haven't proven to me that they're capable of sustained excellence since the beginning of the season.

Jim Storer said...

Re: The AL East... Let's revisit this post once the Yankees are done with their west coast trip next week, just in time for a three-game series with the Sox.

If you look at the remaining schedules for the Sox/Yankees it's easy to see how one could go 15-5 and the other could go 8-12. We'll see.

KFFBOS said...

Let's look at some numbers boys.

14-5 since the last time they played the Yankees. That is NICE...well kind of, let's look at who they played.

White Sox (2 games under .500)
Blue Jays (13 games under .500)
Rays (1 game above .500)
Orioles (26 games under .500)

Hmmmm, so they've gone on a run against a group of teams a combined 40 games under .500. Better yet, they play only two teams with above .500 records the rest of the season (LAA and NYY). That leaves 14 games against the druthers of the league. If recent history proves true that means they should win about 15 of their next 20, leaving them at 99 wins and clearly the wild card "champion".

But the question is whether they can do it in the playoffs against good teams. There are two things to consider here:

1) ALDS is a short series
How huge is it to have Lester, Buckholz and Beckett (and yes I would pitch them in that order at this point) in a 5 game series. There is no doubt they are favored once against versus LAA.

2) ALCS in the Bronx
Here we go again! The Sox are a decent size underdogs to the Yanks on the road in a long series. But, again with our rotation I think we actually have an edge in games 3-5 depending on what shakes out with Dice-K. Could we win one or two games in the Bronx to push this series to 7? Yeah, I actually think they could. Then it is all a crap shoot in Game 7.

I only pray that if the Sox can pull it off that my house does not have to suffer through another Sox/Cards World Series. Not sure my marriage could survive that twice in a decade ;)


Johnny Rooster said...

Well it appears that Beckett has been battling an "illness" and has not felt well over the last couple of weeks, which would perfectly explain his poor showing until recently. And V-Mart and A-Gonz solidify two positions that had become offensive black holes for the Sox. You can see how everyone is batting differently when Victor is playing catcher. Even Big Papi is heating up. Furthermore, Victor's presence in the locker rooms appears to have everyone in good spirits - exactly when it is needed at the end of a long season. I think the Sox have a chance at the Yankees, and most certainly have the Wild Card wrapped up. I had a strong feeling that Texas would fade, and their tough(er) record will be the test. I don't care how the Sox get into the playoffs, as long as they get in. They could play Pawtucket for all I care - it just matters how they play in the playoffs, and we know from past history that they battle best when backed into a corner.