Despite Losing Streak, Sox Clinch Playoff Berth
The Boston Red Sox are playoff bound, ironically enough, thanks to the Los Angeles Angels. With a 5-2 victory over the scuffling Texas Rangers, the Red Sox ALDS opponent will be the team that systematically pushed them into the playoffs.
The Red Sox certainly needed a little shove as they didn’t earn a champagne celebration with their recent play.
Losers of five straight, the Red Sox are nonetheless, winners of the American League wild card. It was a long road for the local nine in 2009 as their trials and tribulations proved difficult for a year which could be considered the finest piece of work from Terry Francona and Theo Epstein. No, they didn’t paint a Van Gogh, but they may very well have ripped an ear off with frustration and uncertainty in the hot summer months. Yet through it all, Epstein brought in Victor Martinez, Alex Gonzalez, and Billy Wagner as the pieces to glue this 2009 jigsaw puzzle together. Francona did what he does best, manage his players. The lineup cards were vastly different for the better part of the year but with the acquistions of Martinez and Gonazlez, the revolving door at shortstop and uncertainty of the middle-of-the-order bat was fixed with two moves. The question that remained and still remains for Francona is, Jason Varitek or Mike Lowell?
Not a bad pickle to be in considering the experience both players have. Varitek may catch one or two games in the playoffs, depending on what kind of hand Francona wants to play. But he certainly isn’t showing his hand. If the Red Sox want their best offensive lineup in the playoffs, it will entail Martinez behind the plate and Lowell at third base. This lineup would place J.D. Drew batting eighth. Scary thought for opposing pitchers.
Speaking of pitchers, the Sox rotation has rounded into form down the home stretch. Albeit the shellacking of Buchholz last night, the Boston top three are about as lethal as any top three one can remember. With Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz, opposing lineups will be facing young, hard-throwing power pitchers, with dynamic off-speed strike out pitches. Oh, and Dice-K is dealing as well, quite an ace in the hole to have.
So on the playoff checklist the Sox have a scary lineup, 1-thru-8 (Gonzalez ain’t an easy out either), a dynamic starting rotation and what else?
Almost forget, a lights-out bullpen.
Sure, I may be tooting the proverbial horn on the Red Sox bandwagon but why shouldn’t I be? If the Sox starters make it past the sixth inning, the bullpen is set up for Billy Wagner in the seventh, Daniel Bard in the eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Sign, sealed, delivered I’m yours.
Pundits may be cautioning exuberant Sox fans who are willing to throw their life savings on the odds that the Fenway Idiots win their third World Series in six years. But why shouldn’t we be excited about our chances? We are a team built for the playoffs. Great pitching, good hitting, and experience. Those three ingredients should make us unbeatable, right?
Well, lest not forget about the five-straight losses and the potential of more losses in the next week as Francona rest the starters. When the Sox head out to Los Angeles to face the Angels in a little over a week, Boston will have little margin for error and no room for losing.
It’s October after all.
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