, Gloucester, MA

August 27, 2013

Contender Status

On Pro Baseball
Bill Burt

---- — Raise your hand if you thought your Boston Red Sox didn’t have this in them.

(FYI: My hand is raised)

I’ll be honest. Despite the grit, which has been there from Day 1, I didn’t see this coming.

I saw Wild Card contender, tops.

But I see more, a lot more. The Red Sox proved a lot this weekend in Los Angeles. Sure, they got a tad lucky, missing the Dodgers top two pitchers — Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke — but the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in a series, something that hadn’t happened since June.

It appears the Red Sox made it through their lull — they lost five of 14 games after their 2-0 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night — and now appear to have their house in order as the flew home last night.

Here are five reasons, I believe the Red Sox are going to push this season into October, maybe deep October.

1. Jon Lester is on.

I’ve been waiting two years for starts like the last two from Lester. It might even be three years. The Red Sox needed a boost with Lester on the mound versus the Giants and Dodgers and he pitched like a champion, which means he’s gone at least seven innings and was nearly unhittable. The Red Sox need the go-to pitcher in October, and while it appears there might be a few candidates, Lester, when he is on, is the only candidate.

2. Starters bordering on very good.

While Lester has been “lights out” in California, he hasn’t been doing this alone. Every game, including last night’s starter Jake Peavy, have elevated their games recently. Again, the Red Sox needed to win this series, to keep ahead of the those pain in the necks from Tampa, and they did. Felix Dubront’s closeout start to beat the Giants 12-1 and John Lackey’s mastery in his last two starts (three runs allowed), including the tough 2-0 loss to the Dodgers in the opener may have been the fuel for what happened last night. There is a lot of good karma with those four.

3. Mental toughness.

The Red Sox have not lost more than three straight games this season. Are you kidding me? While it’s easy to point toward teaching, you have to give all 25 guys some props. It seems like every offensive player has participated in the walk-off classics the last two months. Among the great things Ben Cherington has done was fixing this part of the squad. The Red Sox are tough, win or lose.

4. Depth.

Depth wins championships. OK, we made that one up, but the point is the Red Sox have choices. If it’s not Daniel Nava, it’s now Xander Bogarts. Heck, I want to go to “war” with Mike Carp, though I wouldn’t know him if I bumped into him in a grocery store. With Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks not having to be every day players, this team looks better and fresher. If Jackie Bradley gets the expected call up in a few days, this team will have one of the best defensive group of outfielders in the league.

5. John Farrell.

While I question some of these pitchers opening their mouths (Lester and Peavy on playing time) and another, Ryan Dempster, selfishly hitting A-Rod at the wrong time, this team plays hard every night. That’s the manager. I also have give Farrell big kudos for the bullpen, which is not anything like the one the Red Sox rode World Series titles to in 2004 and 2007. He is the face of the franchise and deserves the credit. Also, it seems teams that win in September and October usually have the better managers. Ditto for Boston.