Monday, September 08, 2003

Games 140-142 - Red Sox, or the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Red Sox 9, Yankees 3
Red Sox 11, Yankees 0
Yankees 3, Red Sox 1
Record: 83-59
AL East: 2.5 GB NYY
Wild Card: 1st - 1.5 up on Sea

The Sox were sooooo close to completing an epic 6-game run with a sweep against the Yankees in the Bronx, but finally buckled under against the New Yorkers yesterday afternoon. Nonetheless, my hat is off to this team of self-described dirtbag scrappers. They most definitely "Cowboyed Up" over the past week, shrugging off a crushing series loss to the Yankees in Fenway to record 5 wins in 6 games and put themselves squarely in the driver's seat for a playoff berth.

I can't remember truly enjoying very many Sox games any more than the first two games of this weekend's series. Sure, the outcome of the games had a lot to do with it, but more than that, it was the way the Sox approached the games. Red Sox Nation was in the midst of it's own brand of chicken little, end of the world, media-fueled frenzy as the Sox headed to New York, but the Sox themselves were as loose as a team of Little Leaguers on their way to a pizza party. At the same time, the Yankees - from the owner on down - seemed uncharacteristically tight, lashing out at one another like never before in Joe Torre's 8-year tenure.

The relaxed, focused Sox took the game to the Yankees from the jump on Friday, rocking Andy Pettitte from the first inning on. The Yankee lefthander, who always seems to own the Sox, lasted only 2 1/3 innings as the Sox coasted behind Pedro. The same loose bunch ripped into Roger Clemens on Saturday, knocking the Texas Con Man from the box after only 3 1/3 innings and 8 earned runs. Big middle finger in this one to Tim McCarver, who openly joked about Tim Wakefield's perfect game in the 4th inning, moments before Bernie Williams doubled to spoil it. Dick (McCarver, not Williams).

Yesterday's loss was a tough one, especially given Jeff Suppan's brilliant pitching performance, and the fact that it gives the Yankees the tiebreaker should the teams finish in a dead heat for the division. Nonetheless, if you told me that the Sox would win 2 of 3, and rock Pettitte and Clemens in the process, I would have accepted it on the spot.

Yesterday marked the end of the brutal stretch of games that defined the second half of the season. The Sox finished the 25-game stretch against Oakland, Seattle, Toronto, New York, and Chicago 15-10, winning 12 of the last 16. They went from outside the playoff picture to leading the Wild Card, and went from 7.5 games behind the Yankees two weeks ago, to making the suddenly vulnerable New Yorkers sweat.

20 games to go, with series' against Baltimore (curse you, blasted Orioles!), Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Cleveland. The schedule-makers have done their part, now the Sox must maintain the laser focus they brought to the park over the last month, and run the table. Lotta ball left, stay on target.

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