Thursday, September 6, 2018

Even When They Try to Lose They Win

OK. So I'm sure that the Red Sox weren't actively trying to lose the game yesterday afternoon. But, as much as Alex Cora talked about the all stars and high draft picks on the field, they weren't exactly trying to win the game either. Cora has made it clear that he's not going to miss a chance to give some guys a break if they need it. So, the chance to rest his regulars for two full days before the Astros series was an easy call for him. And it was the right one, even if it meant losing one game on September 5.

Of course, they went out and won the game anyway. There are so many amazing stories that come out of that, I can't possibly hit them all. But here are a few of the bigger ones.

When David Price had his dominant start against the Indians a couple weeks ago, some saw it as a huge win for him against a playoff team. Others insisted that the win didn't mean anything because it was getaway day for the Indians. They already had their bags packed and were thinking about their in-flight meals. Shutting them down wasn't a big deal, or any kind of achievement. So, apply that logic to yesterday's game. The Sox had their bags packed. They were down huge late in the game. Easy one to just fold up and get out of town with a series win. But, they didn't. They came back huge to tie the game. Then they fell behind again. Then the came back AGAIN in the ninth inning. Of a getaway game. Against a playoff team. Yeah, that was impressive.

So, maybe the Sox can, in fact, hit their way out of an early deficit...even against a "playoff" team. Because that was the knock, right? Sure you can come back against the Orioles. But, not a good team. Well, that's now two playoff bullpens (after the Yankees game earlier this season) who the Red Sox have knocked around to come back when trailing big. This time, they didn't even need their big guns, as Betts, Bogaerts, and Martinez went 0-1 with a walk combined in the game. So, doesn't that put the "comeback" in play come playoff time too? Doesn't this mean that the mythical "playoff bullpen" is just that? A myth? The Sox can come back against any bullpen. They've shown they can.

Doesn't the game also show that a playoff bullpen can blow a lead? I know, I just said that. But...this is another angle. All season, people have been pointing to the bullpen as the Sox fatal flaw. A team can't expect to advance in the playoffs with a bullpen that blows games. Right? Well, that's now a second team that the Sox were supposed to worry about that has a bullpen that blows games. Huge. So, maybe the Sox bullpen isn't as much "fatal flaw" as "the definition of a bullpen". Sure, the Sox might lose a game because of their pen. But, chances are, so will the team that they're playing. It's an even playing field, not an advantage other teams have.

So, at this point the division starts to look pretty comfortable. The Sox hold a 9.5 game lead over the Yankees, thanks to their loss last night. That means, with 21 games remaining the magic number is 13. Simple math tells you that the Sox just need to go 13-8 to take care of the division themselves. Considering their current .688 season winning percentage, that's not exactly a crazy thought. But, say they Sox stumble, or rest more players, and only go 10-11 the rest of the way? That means the Yankees would need to go 20-2 the rest of the season to tie for the lead. Yeah, that's a pretty big hill. Possible? I guess. Probable? Not even a little bit.

Which is why this last month will be so much fun!

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