Haggerty: Sox make it interesting by racking up wins

Haggerty: Sox make it interesting by racking up wins
August 2, 2012, 6:11 am
Share This Post

Less than a week ago, Sox manager Bobby Valentine expressed optimism his baseball team could finish as high as 20 games over .500 when the season has mercifully come to a conclusion.
That would leave the Sox in playoff position, and it would also require them to win two out of every three games for the final three months of the baseball season. That still seems like a preposterous goal given the rampant underachievement up and down Bostons roster and the injuries that continue to plague the Sox.
But a funny thing has happened while the Sox essentially stood pat at the trade deadline aside from the Craig Breslow trade: theyve started winning series against playoff-caliber teams, theyve climbed over .500 again and stand just four games back in the loss column for a wild card playoff spot.
The Sox fell to the Detroit Tigers by a 7-5 score at Fenway Park and snapped a four-game winning streak, but they took the all-important two-out-of-three against Jim Leylands bunch.
You dont expect to win every game from here on out, obviously, said Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But weve got to win every series. Thats something we definitely have to do, and just continue to keep going.
Every win countsespecially at this point. Weve just got to continue to go and weve got a lot of games against teams in our division.
The Sox also have the most difficult schedule in the Major Leagues over the stretch run this season, but they also have the talent to withstand quality teams if theyre actually playing well. Adrian Gonzalez was the leagues hottest hitter with a .372 batting average in July to go with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 24 games, and is finally living up to his reputation.
Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting over .300 since returning from a long stint on the disabled list and is back to throwing his body around in centerfield making spectacular catches. Pedro Ciriaco has been a feel-good story filling in at second base and shortstop with clutch hitting while Dustin Pedroia and Mike Aviles grapple with injuries.
Meanwhile Clay Buchholz has pushed to the front of the starting rotation (2.45 ERA in four starts during July) and looks ready to embark on a three-month stretch of dominant pitching with his otherworldly stuff. Jon Lester is showing faint signs of returning from the out-of-body experience thats been his dreadfully disappointing 2012 season, and Franklin Morales can go back to showing his stuff with Josh Beckett on the shelf with a bad back.
Even erstwhile Sox closer Andrew Bailey, who has yet to produce a single thing for Boston after arriving in exchange for the suddenly slugging Josh Reddick in the offseason, is a handful of minor league rehab innings away from a return. The arrival of Craig Breslow and the return of Bailey will make an already dependable Boston bullpen all that much better.
Even in Wednesday nights loss, the Sox fought back from a 6-1 deficit and made it a close game before eventually falling to the Tigers. The Sox arent going to win every night and theyll need something miraculous to get them into the postseason even with the charity second wild card.
I was really proud of the way the guys battled out there. That was another series that we won, said Valentine. If we keep winning series against tough teams like the Yankees and Detroit then were going to be just fine.
There are still many things that have to happen for the Sox to be fine. David Ortiz is going to have to return happy, healthy and motivated while his unknown future hangs around him like a dark cloud. A surgical procedure to remove Josh Beckett and John Lackey who really has no good reason for hanging around and riding the coattails of his healthy teammates would clearly help in a starting rotation clique thats gone horribly rogue.
Those things can help, but its simply about piling up wins and taking series as theyve done against the Yankees and the Tigers over the last six games. An electrifying Cody Ross walk-off homer or a textbook Pedroia laser show over a prolonged period are momentum-building moments for the Sox, but its not about precious, feel-good Fenway moments for this baseball team.
Its about collectively rolling up their sleeves, slapping together long strings of wins and passing Oakland, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Baltimore for that final wild card spot. It may not be possible for thats done plenty of things wrong for more than a calendar year of baseball.
But it might just be worth watching them try after some encouraging nights against good baseball teams over the last week.