The 2013 Red Sox are going to win the World Series. I’m not sure if they’re the best team in baseball. They certainly don’t have the best players. I’d take a healthy Dodgers or Tigers team over the Red Sox any day of the week, at least on paper. After all, this is a Red Sox team whose best hitter is a 37 year old DH who everyone and their mother thought was over the hill six years ago and whose go-to starting pitcher at the moment had a 4.58 ERA at the All Star break. Yet, they’ve got something magical about them.
It has to be the beards. The Sox look like a bunch of Johnny Damon-style idiots, and they’ve rekindled the magic of the 2004 Damon led-BoSox. They clearly have got something working in the clubhouse; they’ve become the antithesis of the bickering, unhappy, loser Red Sox that called Fenway Park home a year ago. During the regular season the Red Sox were the best team in baseball by nearly any definition. They had the best run differential in the MLB and tied for the most wins with the St. Louis Cardinals, all while playing in the loaded AL East.
In the ALDS, the Sox dominance continued as they zipped by the Tampa Bay Rays in four games. But last night the team that had seemed so magical to me all summer, casually rolling through the AL East to the shock of baseball experts everywhere, suddenly seemed to be on the ropes. Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers bullpen had combined to throw a near no-hitter in an oppressive 1-0 victory in Game 1 of the ALCS and Max Scherzer continued the domination of the Red Sox lineup in game two. The Tigers held a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning and the Tigers appeared ready to grab a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALCS for the second straight year.
What followed felt like fate. Or, at the very least, a testament to the resilience of this Red Sox team. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t seem as though it was once again 2004 for a moment.
Will Middlebrooks whacked a double down the left field line. Then Jacoby Ellsbury walked and Dustin Pedroia singled into right. Suddenly, the bases were loaded for one David Ortiz. The first pitch the best clutch hitter in Red Sox history saw wasn’t exactly a bad one. It was located on the outside half of the plate away from Ortiz’s favorite spot. No matter, Ortiz pulverized the pitch, sending it (and Torii Hunter) straight into the bullpen and Fenway into pandemonium.
The game might as well have been over. Koji Uehara, the Red Sox’ suddenly unhittable 38 year old Japanese closer (who had a ludicrous .57 WHIP this season) blanketed the Tigers in the top of the ninth. Then, the Red Sox finished the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a Johnny Gomes garbage single (he got to second on a throwing error and then to third on a wild pitch) followed by a Jarrod Saltalamacchia walk off single.
In 2004, I remember Tim McCarver (this will be the only time I ever cite Tim McCarver as the source of an insightful comment) said that the Red Sox were “tenacious and (did) not panic.” Indeed, it feels this Red Sox team has much of the same DNA as that fantastic team. It was on display last night at Fenway. And it is why they will win the World Series. I feel it. They’re just so…magical.