And, just like that, there’s maybe a little bit of hope in the nation. Maybe a little bit of dreaming. Maybe a little bit of… swagger?
That was one good game last night – Felix Doubront held down the Yankees for 6 1/3 innings and one run – despite walking five – and the bullpen took over from there, eventually staking the Sox to a gritty 3-2, ten-inning win. Pedro Ciriaco, Boston’s most unlikely but increasingly expected hero, singled softly into right field in the top of the tenth, scoring Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the win.
In fact, all the runs from both sides came from unexpected players last night. Sox youngun Ryan Sweeney doubled in the second inning to score Slatalamacchia and Adrian Gonzalez. New York’s Russell Martin – who currently has a .189 batting average – put the Bombers on his back with a solo home run in the seventh and an RBI single in the eighth.
Meanwhile, New York’s Hiroki Kuroda also pitched really well. He went eight innings, allowed only two runs, and only gave up one walk.
This is the kind of game that’s fun to watch. This is the kind of game we hope for. This is the kind of game the Sox need more of – a lot more of – if they’re going to stay in this race, because, and let’s not forget it: as of July 30, they’re a .500 team, and they have a long way to go if they’re going to sniff October. There are six teams ahead of them in the Wild Card hunt right now: Oakland, the Angels, Detroit, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. Now that there’s two wild cards, the Sox only need to be better than five of those six teams, but that’s still kind of a tall order. The Angels currently hold the second wild card spot, and they’re at 55-47. If they suddenly go .500 the rest of the way, then the Sox still have to go 34-26 just to tie them. That 34-26 would be a .567 winning percentage, which means they’d have to play better than every American League team did in the first half except for the Yankees and Texas.
Playing better than all but two teams in the league, plus assuming that a team that’s been playing well will suddenly fall to earth for no apparent reason – those are odds I wouldn’t take to Vegas. It’s possible, but the Sox have a very long haul ahead of them. They really, really need Josh Beckett and Jon Lester to step up to the metaphorical plate – wins from Doubront are nice, but they’re not going to launch this team into the upper ranks of the American League in time. As Yogi Berra said, it gets late early out there.
Boston’s long haul starts tonight, when Boston hosts Detroit at Fenway Park. Clay Buchholz (8-3, 4.93 ERA) takes on Max Scherzer (10-5, 4.49 ERA) and the Tigers in a 7:10 start.