After playing through the entire season with an injured thumb on his catching hand, Dustin Pedroia finally got his hitchin’ digit fixed up. He may miss some of spring training.

Free agents that matter, seriously:

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
1B: Mike Napoli
SS: Stephen Drew
C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

The only one of those not to receive the 1-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer (such that the Sox receive a draft pick if the QO is declined and the player is signed elsewhere) was Salty, which surprises me a little, as catcher seems like an area of strong need for the Red Sox, just a little less than first base. Maybe there’s more to it than I understand, though.

My guess is Ellsbury and Drew do not return, while Salty and Napoli do. Jacoby’s price tag is going to get too high, and Drew will get too many years to interest the Sox with JBJ and Bogaerts about ready to step in (pretty steep decline from Jacoby to JBJ in player quality, most likely). I think they’ll probably be willing to go with JBJ/Bogaerts/Middlebrooks at CF/SS/3B, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they get a one-year stop gap for the left side of the infield and play M’brooks more like a utility guy who plays about half the time, rotating among the positions in the infield to get the starters rest.

Salty and Napoli, I don’t see decent alternatives for on the market or internally, unless they’re willing to break the bank for McCann at catcher. My guess is Salty on a 3-year deal (~3/39) and Napoli for 2 years (~2/26). Let’s see how it actually works out.

The Yankees have signed the Captain to one more year, boosting the option price of 9.5 million. Jeter played 17 games at the age of 39 last season. Is this strictly for PR and continuity — the baseball equivalent of undercoating — or does the Captain have something left in the tank?

So I really like baseball, I track nearly every Red Sox game in real time and have since late 2003, but I’m pretty sure I should just never watch baseball again now.

I mean, it’s never going to be more fun than that (2004 was more terrifying and explosive than fun, I’d say). The Red Sox were expected by just about every pundit to finish at or near the bottom of the division. Instead, they tied for the MLB lead in regular season wins (and beat the team that tied them, the Cardinals, in the World Series), had the best run differential in baseball, had exactly two bad stretches during the season (one in May and one in August), beat the crap out of the Yankees and Rays in the regular season, took down the Rays and their terrifying rotation in the ALDS, took down the Tigers and their even more terrifying rotation in the ALCS, and won three in a row in the World Series despite the mental hit of losing two games in a row by throwing the ball into left field when trying to throw to 3rd. In their five losses in the postseason, they lost by 1, 1, 4, 2, and 1. They were in every game in October. They never faced an elimination game in the playoffs. And they just seemed like a fun group of guys who really liked each other and liked baseball. You relish every chance you get in the playoffs. And after a heartbreaking 2011 and a despicable 2012, this is just unbelievable. What a team. What a year.

Yeah, I’ll probably still watch next year; it’s nice that so many of the same guys will be back. :)

CHAMPIONS OF BASEBALL!

The Red Sox have won 10 games in October. Gotta grab one more win before you get the brass ring.

To be so close and still so far away, with how incredible this season has been. It’s overwhelming.

This will not be easy. Rookie Michael Wacha has had perhaps the best postseason of any starting pitcher in 2013 (minus maybe maligned Verlander who gave up 1 run in 3 starts), and allowed only a 2-run shot by David Ortiz over 6 in his last outing. He also held the Pirates to 1 run at PNC Park in a must-win Game 4. But the Red Sox have won games started by Moore, Price, Scherzer (twice), Sanchez, Verlander, and Wainwright (twice) this October. There’s absolutely no reason the offense can’t have one good showing at Fenway Park against a great pitcher, and no reason that Lackey can’t hold ‘em to a run or two over 7.

So hopefully tonight the Red Sox rock you tonight. Comment away.

1) Split the 2-gamer at home, 2) win the road series, 3) split the 2-gamer. Step 2 in the Red Sox’ diabolical plan is complete with a victory tonight as the Red Sox find themselves in exactly the same position for Game 5 WS as they were in for Game 5 ALCS, all knotted at 2 games apiece and a guaranteed return to Fenway Park. Lester and Wainwright have another ace-off to close out Busch Stadium action for the season. Hoping for a repeat of Game 1, with runs early and often for the Red Sox, and too little too late for the Cards. Give it all you got, Lester, because this is it. And would someone on the Red Sox besides David Ortiz get hot with the bat for this series? Comment away.

There should have been a 10th inning yesterday. The umps blew it enormously–calling a baserunner tripping over Middlebrooks interference on Middlebrooks. Horrible way to lose.

Just have to swallow it and go to the next game, where Buchholz throws the final start of his season, hoping to even the World Series at 2 games apiece. The hard road. Comment away.

A win assures the Red Sox and their fans that no matter how Games 4 and 5 go, the Sox will have a chance to play in Game 6 back in Boston. Or they could sweep the 3 games in Busch Stadium. That’s fine too. Peavy vs. Kelly. Comment away.

Up until this past loss, the Red Sox had not lost a postseason game the day before an off-day. They always had a game the next day…and they won it each time. It proved tremendously freeing psychologically for this fan, being able to prolong the enjoyment of victory through the off-day (there is, at most, one more off-day this season after this one, weather notwithstanding). Today, I don’t have the luxury of hoping to bounce right back from a loss, and have to wallow in it a little while we wait for tomorrow. The nice thing is that I’m sure the 2013 Red Sox are not dispirited at all. They have proven too resilient too long for me to believe that. I am still of the belief that they are the better team, but not completely confident that they will win the series.

Here are some other things the Red Sox have not had to deal with this postseason that they may well have to before it’s all said and done (I’d like to say again I don’t believe in jinxes):

1) They have not lost 2 games in a row.

2) They have not been defeated by more than 4 runs (and the three other losses were by 1, 1, and 2 respectively…they’ve been realistically in all but one game).

3) Only one starter has lasted longer than 7 innings against them (Verlander went 8), and only two others have made it to 7 (Price, who sucked, and Scherzer, who didn’t).

4) They have never trailed a series after game 2.

5) They have not played an elimination game.

I am not confident in them winning both games 3 and 4, but I am confident in them winning game 3 OR 4. Before the series, I predicted Sox in 5 (I just don’t think the Cards are as good as Detroit). While that’s still possible, 6 seems a lot more reasonable now. We’ll see if they can win the 3-game set in St. Louis. Defeat and gloom may still be the ultimate fate of this series, but the 2013 Sox should certainly make it an interesting series, and we’ll see if they have to face rougher seas than they have thus far in this bout with the NL Champs.

Sox can only win three more games before they tell them to stop. A few more like yesterday would do just fine. Screw tension, I want solid, pressure-free wins…especially given the news that Peavy is throwing Games 3/7 and Buchholz Game 4.

But today is Game 2. That would be young phenom Michael Wacha vs. old horse John Lackey. Just gotta go .500 for 6 games. But a better winning percentage than that in fewer games would be dandy. Both of Boston’s last two World Series were sweeps. I don’t hold out much hope for that, but the games will tell all. Hold serve at home. Comment away.

The Cards went to the World Series in ’04, ’06, ’11, and ’13 (and barely missed in ’12 when the Giants came back from 3-1) and have played in the NLCS 8 times (8/13!) post-2000. The Sox went in ’04, ’07, and ’13 (and had ALCS Game 7 losses in ’03 and ’08) and have played in the ALCS 5 times. The Cards have won it all twice. The Sox have won it all twice. Whoever wins this Series takes the lead in 21st-century titles (the Cards, Giants, and Sox are all tied right now). The one time the Cardinals lost the Series in the 21st century up to now…it was to the Red Sox. We’ve made up for 1946; now it’s your turn, 1967.

Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester are the hurlers. I’m feeling good about this series, but the Cards are a tough team. I think the rotations and bullpens of each team left standing are comparable, but I think the Sox are the better offensive team, and that’s going to be the difference in this one, IMO.

At any rate, four wins to glory for someone, four losses to substantially less glory for someone else. Comment away!

There have been challenging teams that stood in the Red Sox’ way in past Octobers, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite as fearsome a rotation in the Red Sox’ playoff path and maybe not as good an overall team as the 2013 Detroit Tigers. Combine that with a fairly potent offense (let’s face it, the Sox were lucky Miggy was not 100%) and it seemed like a recipe for trouble.

It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. The offense hit .202 across the ALCS. I don’t think it was just that the Detroit pitchers were good (although that was most of it); I think the Sox hitters were not at their best their entire series. The margins of victory in the Red Sox wins were 1, 1, 1, and 3.

Number of innings (and pitches) thrown by Tigers starter in each game: 6, 7, 8, 6, 6, 6.1. (116, 108, 120, 98, 108, 110)
Number of runs (earned or not) allowed by Tigers starters in each game: 0, 1, 1, 1, 4, 3*. * = Bullpen allowed 2 of Scherzer’s runs to score on Victorino’s slam in Game 6.

So how did the Red Sox win?

In Games 2 and 6, the wins came because the Sox managed to get the starter (Scherzer in both cases) out of the game (late, but not too late) and then hit the bullpen hard (Papi slam, Salty walkoff, Victorino slam).

In Game 3, the win came because the Sox countered an excellent starting performance (Verlander) with their own starter’s superb performance (Lackey).

In Game 5, the win came because the Sox managed just enough runs off the starter.

In all 4 of those cases (and in both losses, too), the constant was the bullpen. Whether they were needed for 2 innings or 5, the bullpen was shutdown.

Number of runs allowed by Sox bullpen in each game: 0, 0, 0, 0*, 1, 0*. * = Workman allowed a Peavy run in Game 4, Morales allowed Buchholz’s 2 runs to score in Game 6.

Uehara, Breslow, and Tazawa (probably in that order, despite Tazawa’s success with Cabrera) were a supremely stable bridge. Workman did his job well. Only Morales was a failure, and hopefully he does not make the WS roster (Britton or even Thornton couldn’t possibly be worse). I think the bullpen won the Sox that series, and Uehara getting the ALCS MVP with six shutout innings represents that well.

Now there’s something to hang your hat on.
Fireworks

A win puts the Sox in the big dance with the Cardinals, who clinched last night.

Scherzer smashed the Sox last time to the tune of 13 strikeouts and 1 run in 7 before Papi’s singular significant (but oh boy, was it) contributon thus far in this ALCS undid all of Max’s good work. In Game 2, Buchholz was fine before he suddenly wasn’t and the Sox were in a hole they barely managed to climb out of (seriously, they were about to be down 2-0 and staring at Verlander, which they will be for Game 7 if they lose today). Clay has a chance today at redemption for two average to poor playoff outings thus far (the 3-run shot to Longoria is the other stain on his October resume).

The Sox’ bats have come to life in the last two games (if those 12 hits are bunched differently in Game 4, this series could be over). Hope it stays that way. And may we brim with the emotion and enthusiasm of Koji Uehara when this game ends! Comment away.

Coming after 2011/2012, the Red Sox’ worst possible 2013 fate is losing the ALCS in 7 games. What a season.