When you play 162 baseball games in six months, you have to convince yourself that some games mean more than others.
What better one to choose than Tuesday night?
The Boston Red Sox prevailed 12-10 over the Cleveland Indians in an absolute doozy of an affair at Fenway Park. The Sox rallied from a 5-0 deficit, took the lead on a four-run sixth inning and promptly blew it on a homer and a wild pitch in the ninth — all before Christian Vazquez sent fans home happy with a towering, three-run walk-off shot to dead center field.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s just one win, a small step forward in a marathon season. In the less grand scheme of things, Tuesday’s victory could not have come at a better time for Boston.
The Red Sox entered this series having lost seven of their last 10 games. The club went 13-14 in July, a bumpy 31-day stretch marked by inconsistent play, injuries and off-field drama. In short, this team needed a chance to turn the page. As they flipped their calendars to August, they got just that: Tuesday’s win came gift-wrapped with a New York Yankees loss that lifted Boston back into first place in the American League East by a half game.
Again, one win in August does not a championship team make. But players often point to these victories in the face of adversity as “signature wins:” turning points in a season that can spark a hot streak or a strong stretch run. If nothing else, it’s a mental trick to boost a team’s confidence and morale.
“That’s exactly what we needed,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts said after the game, via The Providence Journal. “The Yankees lost (Tuesday). So, it was a perfect win … for us.”
To be clear: The path ahead won’t be easy. After this homestand, Boston will play 16 of its next 24 games on the road. Ten of those 24 games are against the Yankees, who look like a serious contender after loading up at the trade deadline. If the Red Sox want to compete, they must solve the issues that have plagued them: David Price and Dustin Pedroia need to get healthy, the club’s quiet bats (namely Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi) need to wake up, and the bullpen needs to live up to its billing.
But there are plenty of reasons for optimism heading into the final two months. Trade deadline pickup Eduardo Nunez and rookie Rafael Devers have given the offense a shot in the arm, and the acquisition of Addison Reed gives Boston a pretty formidable relief unit (on paper, anyway).
The Red Sox have enough talent to capture a second straight AL East title; they just need a spark to realize their potential. Was Tuesday night’s win that spark?
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images