by Bill Murphy
Everything is often about the schedule. The Red Sox play only four games the rest of the way versus a team with a winning record. For awhile, it appeared Houston at Boston September 28th through October 1st was a perfect ending to a season. Both teams would have a lot to play for and national television would have their cameras center stage. Currently the scenario will likely not take place though.
There are two weeks and counting remaining in the season. The Houston and Boston showdown could end up being not just anti-climatic, it could end up being an unwelcome series for both teams to play. The match-up could be the fore runner of the first round of the play-offs. That would not be what either team would be pleased to see. IF TRUE, this could mean Boston and Houston could meet for a possible nine straight games. This would include the four at the end of the regular season and then a best of five in the division series. Back in the day, play by play man Keith Jackson, who once did broadcast some baseball- BUT, not nearly enough, would have said “Whoa Nellie.”
Boston had an awkward ending to the 2016 season that helped rob them of momentum going into the play-offs. Between the clinching of the American League East title on a night they suffered a disappointing walk-off loss, setting up a celebration without players really being in a festive mood and several David Ortiz farewells down the stretch, any continuity of momentum became lost for the Olde Towne Team, resulting in a first round series sweep by Cleveland.
This time around, can either Boston or Houston feel comfortable about meeting in a four game series, which will lead up to their most important games of the season? Such a case, would allow both teams to set up their pitchers the way they would like, BUT, seeing your opponent for potentially nine games in a row, begs for all kinds of problems.
One disclaimer does need to be included here. When this piece was written the Red Sox only had a 3 game lead over the New York Yankees. IF the New Yorkers catch the Sox, it will be the Yankees versus Houston and the Sox would host the Wild card game on Tuesday, October 3rd. That is not what we expect, BUT, it is certainly possible.
RED SOX MANAGERS- The 2017 post season is likely to see three recent Red Sox managers vieing for a World Series title. Former Sox skipper Terry Francona is at the helm of the record breaking Cleveland Indians, who of course swept that series from the Sox in October 2016 in Ortiz’ last stand. Obviously John Farrell manages the Red Sox now.
Often overlooked in the battle for the play-offs is Torey Lovullo, who replaced Farrell at the end of 2015 when the Boston leader was undergoing treatment for cancer. We covered that team and the life Lovullo brought to the clubhouse and the field were both something to write home about, BUT, you always wonder how it will translate when a team is in a pennant race. The 2014 Sox were never a serious threat for the post season.
Lovullo’s Diamondbacks have been a vibrant team from the start of the 2017 campaign. They were easy to dismiss OR forget competing against the early record setting pace of the Los Angeles Dodgers, BUT, the truth is, they are playing better than the Dodgers in recent weeks and have to be taken seriously, although they should end up in the dreaded Wild Card game in the National League on Wednesday, October 4th.
By the way, if you look it up, you won’t find anything about Lovullo’s winning record in the waning days of that 2014 season. Official stats say he never managed the Sox. His wins and losses are officially to Farrell’s record.
SOME NOTES WE THOUGHT YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN WHILE WAITING FOR THE LEAVES TO TURN COLOR-
It seems like yesterday that Rafael Devers was on his toes and started the turn of a Triple Play for the Red Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals, BUT, tonight is the one month anniversary of that play, in which Yadier Molina grounded into the three out highlight reel play. While on the subject of Red Sox Triple Plays, which are obviously a rarity, did you know, the Sox turned two in six days, thirty-eight years ago?
On July 23, 1979 during a ho hum 9-2 loss to the California Angels, Rick Burleson and Carl Yastrzemski pulled one off, then on July 28th in Texas, the big play was an important part of a 1-0 Sox win to give Dennis Eckersley his 13th win. Carlton Fisk had two hits and stole a base in the game. The Triple Play involved three different players and it was an unconventional one, going second base to first to third. The individuals respectively were Jack Brohamer to Bob Watson to Butch Hobson.
Can’t complete this column without throwing out a little stat, which in many ways IS, really amazing. Remember how Theo Epstein just had to have Adrian Gonzalez. He tried for a long time to acquire the talented performer and eventually was successful.. HOWEVER, Gonzalez, despite hitting about .320 with near 25 homers and over 100 RBI’s in 2011 and 2012 (which was all but about a month with Boston), never really fit in in Boston.
Gonzalez was a nice guy, played hard, certainly put up the numbers, BUT, the fans and many of the players in the clubhouse, didn’t really buy into Adrian’s personality and especially his theory of why the team fell short in 2011. Most people believed beer, chicken and pompous athletes cost the Sox that season. Gonzalez looked to a higher power for the explanation. He said at the time, “I’m a firm believer that God had a plan and it wasn’t in his plan for us to move forward.”
Oh about that amazing stat we promised? This year his Dodger team is one of the best teams in baseball. BUT……….
Gonzalez was injured and missed two months of the season. While he was on the disabled list, the Dodgers went 46-9, playing their best baseball of the year. Upon his return, they went 7-18 during his first four weeks back. Maybe all players should be blessed with won-lost records each season, not just pitchers?