I’m back! I was in Denver, working on some humdrum event that was going on there this past week, and it’s nice to be home. I seem to have missed a few things, though:
- The Red Sox failed to gain much ground on the Tampa Bay Rays. When I left town last Saturday, the Sox were 5.5 games back. Now they’re 4.5 behind.
- On the other hand, they have opened up some significant breathing room in the Wild Card race — tied with the White Sox, one up on the Twins and five ahead of the Yankees. Now they’re three up on Chicago, 3.5 ahead of Minnesota and seven up on New York. All in all, the Red Sox made huge strides toward the postseason. Six of the seven games this week came against two of those three teams, and the Sox went 5-1. That’s huge.
- Dustin Pedroia vaulted himself into the MVP race by batting .448/.529/.724 during perhaps the Sox’ most key week of the season thus far. He’s also eight for his last eight and nine for his last 10 and reached base in 10 straight plate appearances. Have you got your sunglasses?
- Theo Epstein has looked like a genius. Jason Bay? Three multihit games and 11 RBI in the week. Paul Byrd? Three decent starts since his acquisition and a key win against the Yankees this past week. Mark Kotsay? Acquired this week, he’s gone 5 for 13 (.384) with three extra-base hits and four RBI in his first three games. And for what it’s worth, the Red Sox are 18-8 since The Trade.
I keep using the word "key." That’s exactly what that week was. The Red Sox’ last 11 games were all against teams who were potential Wild Card threats. The Sox won two of three from Toronto, two of three from New York and at least two of three from Chicago. They pulled within five games of .500 on the road, and they’ve done it without Josh Beckett. Since he went down Aug. 17, the Sox are 7-3, with two wins from Paul Byrd and a win from Michael Bowden.
The Red Sox have had their share of adversity this season: Key (that word again) injuries to David Ortiz, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, Sean Casey and Mike Lowell. Jacoby Ellsbury has struggled. Manny Ramirez was traded. They’ve been forced to use 11 starters — just one fewer than the lost season of 2006. Yet this club looks more and more like it will be headed toward its fifth postseason in six years, a testament to the breakout years of Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Pedroia and Youkilis, as well as to Theo Epstein’s smart moves in acquiring Bay, Byrd and Kotsay.
It’s been a good week.