Red Sox fans cannot help but feel elated at seeing their underachieving and outright lost 2012 squad turn into a team that holds an 8.5-game lead in the American League East with less than three weeks to go in the regular season.
Of course, the Sox have played well all season long, but this was a tight division race less than a month ago. Tampa Bay was tied with Boston atop the standings as recently as August 24.
So who has been key in facilitating a shift from a close race to one that the Red Sox have nearly clinched?
CSNNE's Jessica Moran offers three such players.
First is Mike Carp, the Sox utility man. The 27-year-old has only appeared in 75 games this year but has made the most of his opportunity, batting .314 and knocking 9 dingers out of the park. Carp has been especially important as of late, knocking in 6 runs in his last five games, including a game-winning grand slam in the 10th inning against the Rays on Wednesday.
Onto the pitching side, Koji Uehara comes in, and it is not unexpected. The reliever has retired his last 34 batters and is scoreless in his last 29 1/3 innings. In other words, he has been basically unhittable in months.
Coming in third is Craig Breslow. The middle-innings man has allowed just one earned run since July 22 and has stitched together a 2.01 ERA this season. With him and Koji in the Red Sox bullpen, it means there is a solid duo in place to halt any comeback attempts from opposing squads.
There still are some downers for the Sox though.
First and foremost is Brandon Workman, who has a troubling 5.40 ERA in September and has not stopped the bleeding lately with three earned runs given up in his last two starts.
Remaining in the bullpen, Rubby De La Rosa has experienced similar issues recently, allowing three earned runs in his last two starts as well and sporting a 5.79 ERA for the season. It seems that the Sox bullpen has some major strengths and some major weaknesses.
Sticking with pitching, John Lackey gave up 7 earned runs in his last outing. It is only a singular blemish on what has been a resurgent year for the right hander.
That is it for 3 Up, 3 Down. Was there anybody you feel was left out? Offer your thoughts below in the comments section.