BOSTON — Mike Carp, a key utility player for last year’s Red Sox, singled in the winning run in the 10th inning Thursday, a 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox. That makes two straight walk-off wins.
Euphoria at Fenway Park.
“Hopefully, this will get us into a little bit of a rhythm,” pitcher Jon Lester said.
Manager John Farrell has his fingers crossed, too.
“Hopefully, this gives us some momentum,” Farrell said.
These Red Sox once were full of hope. And they can still be an exciting team to watch.
But face it fans, this is not going to be like 2013.
Remember last fall, a World Series victory and a team full of contributors, including recent Sea Dogs Xander Bogaerts and Brandon Workman?
Now we have those two, plus others like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts.
“Our young guys are playing pivotal roles,” Farrell said.
But this is not like last year. We will not be watching Bradley and Betts in the 2014 World Series, because the Red Sox won’t be there.
A simple glance at the American League East Division standings, displayed on Fenway Park’s Green Monster, says it all. Heading into Thursday’s matinee game with Chicago, Boston sat in last place, 9½ games out of first.
The team had headed into the homestand six games out of first after winning two straight at Yankee Stadium. The return to Fenway was a chance to build on the momentum, to break out of the blahs and bolt into contention. The Red Sox had 10 games against the lowly Cubs, rival Orioles and sinking White Sox in a place where they’re supposed to have a huge advantage.
But they were swept by the Cubs, lost 2 of 3 to Baltimore and split with the White Sox. A 3-7 record.
It’s trendy to declare a team out of contention – maybe it’s the know-it-all nature of some in our business – and some Red Sox critics have been declaring this season over for more than a month (some of the same voices declared the 2013 season a bust before it started).
But it can’t be denied now. The Red Sox, with their young and exciting players, are not going to contend, barring a miracle.
The low benchmark for any post-season team is usually 90 wins. For the Red Sox to get there, they would have to go 49-21 in their final 70 games – this from a team that can’t do better than winning three of 10 at home?
Boston’s current record (41-51) is worse than those of the begrudged Red Sox teams of 2011 and 2012, yet there does not appear to be the same vile feelings for this team.
That 2011 squad was known for its players with long-term contracts, lots of potential and a momentous collapse in the final month to miss the playoffs. There also were reports of pitchers eating chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse during games. That went over well with the fans.
The 2012 season featured another under-performing team, this time led by combustible manager Bobby Valentine. Add the lingering bitterness from 2011 and it was not pleasant.
That led to 2013, a team with low expectations that surprised everyone – especially those critics – and an unexpected title.
Maybe there is a honeymoon of good feelings left over from last year. And there was the continued hope that this team would turn things around.
That hope took a beating during this homestand.
Boston sent up its first signal of surrendering Wednesday when it designated veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment (baseball’s terminology for letting a player go). Boston general manager Ben Cherington said he might not have made the move if Boston’s fortunes were better.
By moving Pierzynski out, the Red Sox could welcome catcher Christian Vazquez (alum of the 2013 Sea Dogs), considered one of Boston’s future stars.
Did you catch Wednesday’s lineup? It contained Betts, Bradley, Bogaerts, Vazquez and Brock Holt, a rookie acquired in a trade last year. It was the earliest in the season that the Red Sox started five rookies since 1952. That year the Sox finished 19 games out of first place.
“You get excited when you see these guys,” said Boston outfielder Daniel Nava, who broke in back in 2010. “They bring a lot of energy.”
There may be still time for a miracle finish.
In 2011, the Tampa Bay Rays were nine games out in September and still reached the playoffs. But the Rays were a winning team at the time, and it took Boston’s collapse for them to catch up.
If you really want to believe in karma, you can bring up the 100-year anniversary of the old Boston Braves of the National League. On July 15, 1914, Boston was 33-43, 11.5 games out of first place. The Braves made a dramatic run, going 61-26 the rest of the way to finish 94-59, and then win the World Series in a sweep.
A turnaround this year? The Red Sox are hoping. The fans are wishing. Reality says enjoy the dramatic wins when they come, and wait till next year.