The Salem News
---- — Fall is in the air in New England. The air is crisp and bright. Apples are ripe. The leaves are turning. This is our season to shine.
And for New England sports fans, it would be hard to imagine anything better. The Red Sox are advancing through the baseball playoffs. The Patriots (with the Gronk about to return) and Bruins are winning. The Celtics are preparing to start another season. What more could we want?
The Red Sox wrapped up their American League Division Series 3-1 with a win Tuesday night over the Tampa Bay Rays. Boston got timely pitching from starters Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy. Relievers were solid as well, particularly Craig Breslow, who struck out four of the six batters he faced Tuesday, and closer Koji Uehara. The only blip in the Sox pitching performance came Monday night when the normally lights-out Uehara gave up a walk-off homer for the Rays’ only win in the series.
Offensively, the Red Sox got hits when they needed them. While the team struggled to put runs on the board in the 3-1 win Tuesday night, in the first two games of the series the Sox outscored the Rays 19-6.
That meant the Red Sox could sit back and wait for the outcome of last night’s deciding game in the Oakland Athletics-Detroit Tigers series. The Red Sox will meet the winner in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series tomorrow. The early wrap-up of the ALDS gives manager John Farrell time to rest his players and set his pitching rotation to his liking.
There’s little in sports to compare with the excitement of playoff baseball. The Red Sox have not made an appearance in the ALCS since 2008. After being eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the 2011 season and 2012’s disastrous last-place performance, this season’s bearded players on a “road to redemption” have produced a story line to rival that of the “Idiots” of 2004.
Bill Burt, sports editor at our sister paper, The Eagle-Tribune, put together some telling statistics to convince those who won’t believe the Red Sox are the best in baseball right now:
The Red Sox had 36 come-from-behind wins during the regular season and two in the ALDS. Their longest losing streak all year was just three games. When scoring five or more runs in a game this season, the Red Sox were 75-11. The Red Sox were 78-5 when leading after seven innings.
The Red Sox already have given us the pleasure of seeing our team advance from “worst to first” during the regular season, having compiled the best record in the American League. Now, they’re giving us the thrills of playoff baseball.
If the Sox can advance through the ALCS, they will be in the World Series for the third time this still-young century. After all the years of struggle through the 20th century — 86 years without a World Series win — who could have imagined such an embarrassment of riches in our time? Go Red Sox!