They didn’t win their division, suffered a grim second-half collapse, did little to improve their club at the trade deadline and are comprised of parts gathered over three front office regimes.
The more Boston Red Sox win, the better their 2021 rollercoaster season.
The latest frameable moment came Monday night, after the Red Sox blew a five-run lead but, befitting their resourceful ethos, got a ninth-inning sacrific fly from Kiké Hernandez to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-5 in Game 4 and capture their American League Division Series.
Trout defeated the Rays 3-1 in the ALDS and sent the Red Sox to their AL Championship Series. They’ll face either the Houston Astros, or Chicago White Sox. The first game is on Thursday.
The Red Sox got there in a manner befitting their slugging lineage, breaking open a scoreless tie in the third inning with a lightning-strike five-run rally off Rays rookie and Game 1 starter Shane McClanahan, all the runs scoring with two out and three of them coming home on Rafael Devers’ three-run home run.
They won with a kind of execution they have never seen before.
After the Rays methodically clawed back against Boston’s bullpen with five runs between the fifth and eighth innings, Boston struck back in the ninth. Game 3 hero Christian Vazquez led off with a single, was bunted to second advanced to third on an error before Hernandez’s high fly to right easily scored pinch runner Danny Santana to send Fenway Park into relieved delirum.
Alex Cora, Red Sox manager, says that not too many people believed in us from the beginning, but that we did. He’s been a winner of every series since he took over the Red Sox following a one year ban for his part in Astros sign-stealing.
We were proud to say that our baseball team had its flaws, which we do still admit, but we made it through the end. We are still participating in the dance. We are still part of the tournament.
It was the culmination of a series that saw the Red Sox finish eight games behind the 100 win Rays in AL East. The Red Sox had been playing badly from the beginning and were forced to fire ace Nathan Eovaldi in order to beat the Yankees at the AL wild card game. The Red Sox won Game 2 with a 5-0 win over Tampa Bay. However, they regained the lead after Game 1.
In Game 3, they lost a lead of 2-1. They then had to score 13 runs and hit a Vazquez walk off homer for a 2-1 series lead.
You could do worse. Tampa Bay used consecutive doubles from Mike Zunino and Kevin Kiermaier and an RBI single by Randy Arozarena to tie it 5-5 in the eighth – the second consecutive game the Rays erased a two-run, eighth-inning deficit. There were no outs and a runner at second.
De facto closer Garrett Whitlock, however, calmed things as he had in Game 4. He got a pair groundouts to level the score and then pitched the ninth.
Hernandez’s heroics sent Boston onward and Tampa Bay – the best and most consistent team in the AL this season – home for the winter.
It is a playoff run for the Red Sox that comes less than two years following the trade of Mookie Betts (a franchise player) to the Los Angeles Dodgers. This precipitated a disappointing, short-lived 2020 season.
But despite Betts’ loss, plenty of holdovers from their 2018 championship team – Eovaldi, Devers, Vazquez and others – combined with new blood to form a cohesive unit. Hernandez was signed by the Dodgers after he had nine hits and six RBI in his 20 ALDS at bats. He also drove in the Series-ender. Alex Verdugo was acquired by the Betts in a trade and has eight hits this postseason as well as six RBI.
Now, onward to their next step, where they’ll be underdogs starting on the road again.
Hernandez said, “I mean here we are,” surprising everyone except ourselves.