With Red Sox fans on the verge of a mental collapse and airwave pundits declaring the season all but over, Boston reminded everyone why they cannot be counted out of the post-season race. At least, not yet.
The Sox, after blowing a doable sweep in Seattle, responded by sweeping the Angels. The Sox actually finished with a winning record (6-4) from their West Coast roadtrip. For them to do that even in a normal situation would be cause for celebration. But for Boston to come out ahead with the injuries they have...the fanbase should be ecstatic over that performance.
I mean, look at the lineup they are winning with. No offense to Eric Patterson, Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall, but those guys shouldn't be starting regularly for any team in the majors, let alone the Sox. They are role players, good ones but role players. And yet they have stepped in and stepped up. Hall homered in the second yesterday and then both Hall and Patterson got on base to set the stage for Scutaro's game-winning grand-slam in Boston's 7-3 victory. And these guys have featured again and again in these scenarios. Of course, they also seem to contribute their fair share of errors (Hall especially, at least from what I have seen). But their positive impact has outweighed the negative.
I think the real trick is that Boston simply negated their biggest weakness - the bullpen - by not going to it a lot. Boston's three pitchers in the Anaheim series (Buchholz, Lackey and Beckett) all went at least seven innings. And in last night's win, when Boston needed the bullpen to step up, they actually did. Delcarmen and Ramirez each contributed one inning of scoreless work. Ramirez looked surprisingly effective, striking out two batters. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last three outings.
The Sox are, obviously, not out of the woods yet. They are still seven back of the Yankees and five behind the Rays for the wild-card spot. But right now they stand at 11-12 for the month of July with two games left in the month at home against the Tigers. They could very well come out of July, a month where they have been without numerous starters for extended periods of time, with a record close to or over .500 for the month. That is a remarkable achievement and shouldn't be discounted. The Sox have kept themselves in contention in almost impossible circumstances. And now with Beckett and Buchholz back on the mound and Hermida and Martinez in the field, we are seeing the Sox slowly regaining their footing.
Now, unless the bullpen can straighten out then this will all be for naught. The Sox can't count on their starters going 7+ each and every outing. Nevertheless, the Sox cannot overpay for a reliever either. Every time someone mentions Kelly and Iglesias going to Toronto for Scott Downs, I want to hurl. Hopefully the situation can resolve itself internally (Doubront and Bowden) or they can find someone good, not great, who can bridge to Bard. But for now, Boston fans can ease back from the ledge a little. The season isn't close to over yet.