Monday, December 9, 2013
"In a word, magical."
Those were the words of Red Sox Manager John Farrell after his team's 11th walk-off win of the season Thursday night, an improbable comeback that saw 10 batters step up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth as the Sox scored six times to beat Seattle 8-7. It was the most improbable win in a most improbable season.
By the end of the night, #WalkOffCity was trending on Twitter. The Red Sox haven't had this many walk-off wins this early in any season. And they haven't had this much fun in a couple of years.
Incredibly, 29 percent of Boston's home wins entering the weekend were walk-off victories. Everyone was left asking what kind of an effect it would have on the Sox in these final two months of the season.
"To what extent, I don't know, but there is an effect," said Farrell. "I think it's a cumulative one. You know, given the number of late-innings wins that we've had here, our dugout was very loose."
This dugout has been loose all season. It speaks to the chemistry of the players in the clubhouse. But character, not chemistry, is the most important trait of this team.
There is no question the Sox have plenty of character. They have a room full of players who eat, sleep and breathe baseball. On most game days the clubhouse is filled by 1 p.m. and the field is humming with early workouts. The roster is loaded with "gamers," and the team's success after 7 p.m. is no coincidence.
Two years ago, as the Sox suffered the worst September collapse in team history; it seemed no one in uniform wanted to be here. Today, there's no place this current group of players would rather be.
Does that lead to late-game success? It doesn't hurt. It would've been easy for Stephen Drew or Brock Holt to swing early in their ninth-inning at bats Thursday night. They were trailing by five and no one expected a comeback.
But the players on this team never give away an at-bat. They grind it out to the end -- and lately the end is a celebration at home plate after another ninth-inning rally.
Back in March, the basketball team from Florida Gulf Coast University captivated the sports world with a run in the NCAA tournament. Midway through the month the official website of Fort Myers, FL changed its banner to #DunkCity.
Maybe it's time for outgoing Boston Mayor Tom Menino to change his city's website.
Boston has become #WalkOff City, population 25. It's the type of team that led to Boston's former nickname, the City of Champions.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.