THE FINISHING KICK – OCTOBER 11
By Paul Wales
The Red Sox are Rolling
The Boston Red Sox just pulled off an upset nobody saw coming. After losing the opening game in Tampa, Boston rallied and won the next 3 games and defeated the Rays in the ALCS in front of their home fans with the final two victories in walk-off fashion.
As the Rays dominated the AL East, and the rest of the league, throughout the regular season and looked to be on their way back to the World Series, the Red Sox struggled the final month of baseball and barely survived September with a Wild Card spot. Boston went from almost falling out of the playoff picture a couple weeks ago to beating the defending American League champions and 100-win Tampa Bay Rays as well as having the next 3 days to prepare for the ALCS.
Red Sox fans were pulling their hair out as the postseason approached. As the Wild Card race continued to shuffle teams in and out of playoff spots every week leading up to the final week of regular season baseball, in a series with huge playoff implications, Boston was swept and leapfrogged in the standings by the Yankees. Then to make matters worse, the Red Sox traveled to Baltimore to play the worst team in the American League and lost 2 of 3 games against the Orioles. With a 4-way tie for the two Wild Card spots still possible heading into the final regular season series, the pressure was on as the Sox desperately needed to snap out of their slump.
After their worrisome series in Baltimore, the Sox traveled to the nation’s capital and got a much needed sweep against the Washington Nationals, earning a spot to host the Wild Card game. As Boston began to regain momentum at the right time, their Wild Card matchup seemed less than favorable as they were set to play the Yankees just a week after getting swept by them in a one game playoff at Fenway Park.
With momentum finally starting to side with the Sox, Boston looked like a completely different team with their season on the line. Not only did the BoSox put runs on the board early against Gerrit Cole, but they got him out of the game without recording an out in the third inning. Eovaldi was on his game pitching just over 5 innings and only allowing one run while striking out 8. The Red Sox dominated the Bronx Bombers in every aspect of the game and made the Yankees look like they didn’t deserve to be there.
After defeating one division rival, the Red Sox were tasked with another division contest two days later as they flew south to take on the Rays. After winning their previous 4 games, the Red Sox were halted and shut out by the Rays in Game 1 losing 5-0. After Tampa delivered the first blow, Boston came back the next night and showed their resilience. Despite being down 5-2 in the first inning and the Rays forcing the Red Sox to take Chris Sale out after the first inning, Boston slugged their way back into the game with two solo home runs in the third inning and a 3-run blast in the fifth. After regaining the lead in the 5th, the Sox added 6 more runs in the final 3 innings to coast to a huge 14-6 win to even the series.
Once the series made its way back to Fenway, the Sox continued to show their resilience. In Game 3, after the Rays scored two runs to even the score at 4 in the eighth inning, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez sent a thrilling walk-off homerun to the Green Monster in the thirteenth inning to take a 2-1 lead in the series with a chance to end Tampa’s season the following night. In Game 4 Boston found themselves facing similar adversity late in the game. After scoring 5 runs in the third inning, Tampa clawed their way back in it to even the score by the 8th inning. With 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, Enrique Hernandez stepped up and delivered the second walk-off in two nights with a sac-fly to left field as Danny Santana scored to send the Red Sox to the ALCS.
The last 3 weeks, Red Sox fans have been on an absolute roller coaster but I’m sure the BoSox fans couldn’t be happier to find themselves in the ALCS. The underdog story came to a fairytale ending not once, but twice as the Red Sox showed that anything is possible once the playoffs begin. The Red Sox are currently in the midst of a 3 day break as they prepare to head to Houston to take on the Astros who have been destroying the baseball this postseason. Houston is currently a -200 favorite to win the American League Pennant, but I’m sure the Red Sox couldn’t be happier being underdogs for the third playoff matchup in a row as they look to continue their run to the World Series.