September 10, 2013

Tom Caron: Red Sox have removed that cursed panic button

BOSTON - It took a loss to remind us how different these Boston Red Sox are from their predecessors.

Sunday's loss in New York was one of the strangest games we've seen this season.

For the second time in four days Boston rallied off the greatest closer in baseball history to tie the game in the ninth. Then rookie Brandon Workman lost the game with a wild pitch, allowing Ichiro Suzuki to steal a walk-off win as he scored from third.

It was the kind of loss that would normally send Red Sox Nation into full panic mode. Not this year. It was just a minor bump in the road, a day where the beleaguered Yankees could feel good about themselves as the first-place Sox packed their bags and headed south.

Not even the postgame news that Jacoby Ellsbury had a fracture in his right foot could derail the Sox party train. Everyone chose to dwell on the good news that the center fielder is expected back by the end of the regular season.

It has been an incredible run for a team that hasn't won a postseason game in five years. The Sox have won 14 of their last 19 games, including three of four in the once-intimidating Bronx.

It was reminiscent, in a reverse setting, of 2006 -- when the Yankees came to Fenway Park and swept the Sox in a five-game series. Boston was hanging on in the playoff race, just 11/2 games back. By the time Derek Jeter and company left Boston it was a 61/2-game differential.

The Sox never recovered.

This time, it was the Sox trying to finish off their archrivals in New York. They pounded out 37 runs in four games. They lowered their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to 10.

Qualifying for the postseason is the first order of business. The Sox haven't been there since 2009. But a wild-card spot isn't enough for this team. Their eyes are on the top prize, looking to nail down just their second AL East title in the last 18 years.

It is a stunning turnaround. John Farrell's group is closing in on 90 wins just a year after losing 93 games. Last season they went 7-22 after September 1, an awful sequel of going 7-20 in the collapse of 2011.

They are 6-2 in September this year.

Different times indeed. The Sox are brimming with confidence, and we're already starting to think about which team will stagger out of the one-game wild card matchup to line up for Game 1 of the ALDS at Fenway Park.

Things are so different we don't even mind a stunning loss at Yankee Stadium. We shrug it off and move on.

Different is good. And so is this Red Sox team. With three weeks remaining in the season they are gaining momentum ... and the confidence of a fan base that has been through a tough couple of years.

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.

 

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