On the morning of August 19, 2013, the Redsox were fresh off a loss to the New York Yankees. The team was involved in a lot of negativity after Dempster threw at Alex Rodriguez. Fans were beginning to wonder if the negativity had leaked into the dugout. The team had its seventh loss in their last 10 games, and their division lead was just one game over the surging Tampa Bay Rays. They had a tough schedule ahead of them for the rest of the season—only really playing series against strong playoff contenders (The Giants, Dodgers, Orioles, Tigers, Yankees (twice), and the surging Rays). And of course, there were many questions on whether the bullpen could hold up without its two best players, if the pitching staff would be able to keep winning games without a legitimate ace, or if the offense could keep surging in the late innings to win one-run games. Critics were trying to find anyway possible to say that the Redsox could not win the division—thinking they would blow a huge division lead like they had in 2011. And after winning only 69 games in 2012, I don’t blame them. But, the Redsox have proven in the last month that they are clearly not the same team team they were in 2011 and 2012—they may have many of the same players, but this year, they turned it around. Beginning with their streak that began on August 19, the Redsox have finally put the critics to rest and showed that they are the best team in baseball.
Since August 19, the Redsox have championed a 19-6 record. During this time, they played the toughest stretch in their schedule, battling some of the hottest teams including the Rays, Yankees, and Orioles who were all within games of the division lead. The Sox beat every one of them in a three games series, showing that they had more depth and were ultimately better than each one of those opponents. They also beat arguably the best team in the National League, the Dodgers.
All of this came at a time where the teams ace Clay Buchholz was either not playing or completely healthy, and the team’s closer and set-up man were both out for the season with injury. Players like Jon Lester, who had an atrocious season last year; Will Middlebrooks, who was demoted to the minors earlier in the season; Mike Napoli, who holds the Redsox record in strikeouts this season; and most importantly Koji Uehara, who is 38 years old without any closer experience, have all stepped up at the right time. They are all putting on some of the most dominant stretches of their career, and perhaps Koji Uehara may be putting up on of the best stretches for a relief pitcher in history. None of these players were expected to have an impact this season like they have had in the last month.
It is not only those players too, but the whole lineup, top-to bottom is producing. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is having the best season of his career. Ortiz and Pedrioa are putting up consistently huge numbers that we have come to expect from our superstars. Drew has had an incredible second half. Nava has been silently htting above .300, Victorino is 15 in the league in wins above replacement despite being injure for part of the season, and Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp have been one of the two best timely hitters in the league. Everybody on this offense is producing.
The pitching has been solid too. Despite Buchholz’s injury, each of the starters have held their own. Jon Lester is looking like the ace he was back in 2007. Lacky and Peavy are pitching strong, and Dubront and Dempster have been solid four and five starters. The bullpen has been effective too, despite the injuries. Uehara, as we mentioned, is putting on one of the best seasons in a relief pitchers history, as he has now gone over 30 innings without even giving up a run. Tazawa, Breslow , Workman, and even Britton have been solid in the bullpen. The pitching all together has given up an average of just 3.77 runs per game, which is more than enough for the offense, as their offense averages over 5 runs per game.
The team during this stretch has completely come together. A team’s chemistry is defined by their ability to have everybody producing to their maximum capacity, and as we can see, everybody on the Redsox is doing that. Role players are making an impact and superstars are putting up big numbers. ‘Has beens’ like Lester, Lacky, Peavy, Napoli, Drew and Victorino, have come back to life, putting together some of the best numbers in their career, and young players like Bogarts, Middlebrooks, and Workman are producing. Everybody is doing their job. The Energy coming out of the clubhouse is positive. The team expects to win every night—and since August 19th,they have finally proved to the critics that yes, they are going to make the playoffs, win the division, and that they are the best team in baseball. Ever since the season began, everybody in that organization believed that they could win the world series, and after coming off their best stretch of the season, Redsox fans, they have finally proved it—it is time to believe.