The Invincible Men

The Boston Red Sox are on what those in the bakery biz like to call "a roll."

They sit well ahead in the Wild Card, and now are just five games back of the Yankees, closer than they've been since that terrible four-game series in early August. Not coincidentally, the Red Sox are an MLB-best 27-11 since the day after that series. That's a .711 winning percentage, if you're keeping track at home.

Even better, since the last time the Sox played the Yankees, an 8-4 loss on Aug. 23, the Sox are 19-6, winning an even 76 percent of their games over the past month. With 14 games left, that would put the Sox at 11-3 the rest of the way, for a final record of 100-62.

Were that to happen, and we assume that includes the Sox' pulling off a highly improbable series sweep next weekend in the Bronx, the Sox would win the AL East if the Yankees go 5-4 in their nine remaining non-Sox games.

(For the record, the last time the Yankees went 5-4 in any given nine-game stretch was the nine games ending Saturday. New York is now 4-5 in its last nine games, while the Sox are 8-1 in theirs. Keeping up that pace, of course, the Sox will gain first place sometime next week.)

It's highly unlikely — very highly. In 2004, the Red Sox were the best second-half team in baseball and finished with 98 wins, but they could draw no closer than two games behind the Yankees and finished three back. At this point in the season, they were closer to the Yankees (4.5 games) than these Sox are now.

Still, the reason we're even discussing this is that the Sox have been insanely hot for a good long stretch of time. Thanks to a combination of their own high-quality play and their good fortune in the quality of opponent they're drawing, the Sox seem to be a lock to win every game they play. The starters haven't given up more than three runs in 13 consecutive starts. The offense has scored nearly 200 runs in 30 games.

We take it for granted these days that the Sox will win a game tied 3-3 in the sixth on a day when Jon Lester hasn't looked his best, or that Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose last efforts in Boston redefined the word "suckage," will churn out good starts, or that Alex Gonzalez, who last we checked is not actually a hitter by any strict definition of the word, will keep getting key hits.

If it feels like a while since we've felt this good about the Red Sox, that's probably because it is. The last time a Sox team won 19 of 25 games this late in the season was from Aug. 24 to Sept. 19, 2004. In fact, the only seasons recently in which the Sox have posted a 19-6 record over any stretch of 25 games at any point during the regular season? 2004, 2007, 2009. Seems like I can think of something else those first two seasons have in common…

I'm not saying this will last, but I do plan on enjoying it as long as it does — and hoping it continues until the Sox run out of games in the first week of November.

21 comments… add one

  • Paul, this post is tempting fate, pure and simple. I fully expect the Red Sox to struggle down the stretch and to so much as contemplate overtaking the Yankees is idle foolishness.
    The real question is: do the Twins still have a shot at overtaking the Tigers, making the Yankees’ path to the ALCS that much easier?

    stuck working September 21, 2009, 12:03 am
  • Here’s to the sox peaking early! (i hope/wish/dream)

    sam-YF September 21, 2009, 12:49 am
  • “Here’s to the sox peaking early! (i hope/wish/dream)”
    Or the Yankees beginning their inevitable playoff collapse early!

    SoxFan September 21, 2009, 1:35 am
  • Came in here expecting a post about how the Sox are gaining on the Yanks. Was not disappointed!
    We’re also only 4 games back in the loss column. Our starting rotation doesn’t line up perfectly for that Yanks next weekend (Lester on Friday, and Byrd/Wakefield/Daisuke for the other two), but that series is starting to loom larger and larger for those of us with the irrational hope of winning the division.

    Atheose September 21, 2009, 7:47 am
  • The Yankees have much bigger concerns than the small-but-growing possibility that Boston catches them for the ALEast. Namely, what do Andy (shoulder issue), AJ (head issue), and Joba (issue) give them when they do get there. But yeah, if I were a Sox fan I’d be entertaining the first scenario too.

    IronHorse September 21, 2009, 8:23 am
  • In fairness, it is always easier to feel cocky when you have been playing the Orioles.

    beth September 21, 2009, 8:32 am
  • In fairness, it is always easier to feel cocky when you have been playing the Orioles.
    True. Though having the Royals coming up doesn’t hurt either.

    Paul SF September 21, 2009, 8:40 am
  • For a second there, I thought the 3-game series at the end of the month would be meaningless. Now when the Yankees win 2 out of 3, it will actually dash some Sox fans
    hopes! I’m always up for that. ;)

    AndrewYF September 21, 2009, 9:11 am
  • Paul is saying the Sox are going to win the World Series! Mark the date and time!!! ;)

    krueg reincarnate September 21, 2009, 9:16 am
  • What a shocker…the Sox are back in the hunt for the East! I said this a month ago and Sox fans jumped all over me. “You’re being nice, you’re full of sh$t, you can’t possibly believe it”… shocker of all shockers a meaningful September series we shall have. This is good though I was starting to get soft and lose my hatred for (most) Sox fans and the Sox in general.
    “Inevitable Playoff Collapse”
    The confidence is back in Boston fellas! Glad to see you all made it back safely from that ledge.

    John -YF September 21, 2009, 9:57 am
  • What a shocker…the Sox are back in the hunt for the East! I said this a month ago and Sox fans jumped all over me. “You’re being nice, you’re full of sh$t, you can’t possibly believe it”
    eh, they are mathematically in the hunt, but in all reasonable scenarios (considering schedule, head-to-head games, wild card ease) there is no “hunt for the AL East”. The Yankees have this sewn up, and only by the graces of an historic collapse (and this would be in the realm of an historic collapse were the Sox to overtake the Yanks) is there a “hunt”.
    Like it was mentioned yesterday, if the Yankees take one of three from the Sox and play .500 ball elsewhere against a bunch of patsies they will force the Sox to be nearly flawless the rest of the way. They are not “back in the hunt”. Four down with less than two weeks to play is just not a hunt. It’s a ridiculous longshot.

    SF September 21, 2009, 10:36 am
  • I don’t think the Sox will come back only because there’s no reason they would go for it, as the Yanks have clinched a spot, and the Sox is getting there. It’s almost stupid to risk injury instead of resting all the regulars for “pride”.
    Same thing for the collapse, even if it happens, might at least be half because the Yanks probably wouldn’t care too much about it either.. we’ve been trotting out Gaudin and Mitre and whoever and resting everybody for quite a bit. There’s no reason to believe they will stop doing that just so they can “win” the East, if it comes to that..
    (Though there’s some extra incentive about not wanting to face the Angels though.. maybe..)

    Lar September 21, 2009, 11:08 am
  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
    Wake me for the playoffs.

    Rob September 21, 2009, 11:13 am
  • Paul, we think alike.
    It remains mathematically possible, so I want it. (Though a sweep next weekend is essential.) If it happens, it’ll be historic. If not, the Sox are in the playoffs.
    Far from “tempting fate”, it’s a win-win.

    redsock September 21, 2009, 11:32 am
  • A sweep of the Angels this week would for all intents and purposes seal the deal for the AL Championship AND home field advantage throughout the playoffs (not to mention playing the Tigers or Twins in the ALDS). Unfortunately, the pitching matchups do not lead me to believe the brooms will be out…
    Pettite (shoulder fatigue) vs. Saunders.
    Gaudin (experimental 5th starter) vs. Santana.
    Burnett (which one will show up) vs. Kazmir

    Jack September 21, 2009, 12:30 pm
  • Should say *AL East Championship*

    Jack September 21, 2009, 12:33 pm
  • Speaking of historic, how many teams have started out 8-0 against a division rival but ended up behind them in the standings at the end of the season?

    IronHorse September 21, 2009, 12:48 pm
  • Even a billionaire can’t buy the world’s smallest violin.

    Rob September 21, 2009, 1:18 pm
  • Speaking of historic, how many teams have started out 8-0 against a division rival but ended up behind them in the standings at the end of the season?
    Paging Paul!!!

    SF September 21, 2009, 1:40 pm
  • I’m actually with Lar on this one. As bizzare and improbable as a division win would be, it’s not really all that significant, and I’d rather they have a team that is rested and ready to go for the playoffs.

    Ethan-SF September 21, 2009, 3:05 pm
  • I would think the Red Sox would rather face the Angels in the DS than the Tigers.

    AndrewYF September 21, 2009, 4:21 pm

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