The last time I posted (August 11) the Sox weren’t hitting and the bullpen was hemorrhaging walks and runs. In the interim, the Sox caught fire and those issues were dismissed with authority. They punished the ball, Koji Uhehara came back, and Kimbrel found the strike zone.
The last weekend of the season looked more like August. Kimbrel was a disaster and Pedroia started to yank the ball again( which means ground out), and Papi looked tired. The Blue Jays took two of three and could easily have swept. O.K. so the Jays were more motivated.
Mercifully the Sox have four days to re-group, and they get to lead with Porcello against the Indians on Thursday. And yet the stumbling August team still haunts me. Which team will show up on Thursday?
The teams with momentum are the wild card teams and the Indians. The Giants and the Mets have proven how much momentum means in past playoffs, so it is far from inevitable that the team with the best season-long stats will emerge victorious.
For the Red Sox it depends on situational hitting and a bullpen that throws strikes. They are masters of loading the bases, and experts at leaving them loaded. Hitters need to take what the pitcher gives them and go to the opposite field. Those that can bunt need to execute at the right time. More aggressiveness on the base paths. You can’t wait for the fat pitch to send over the wall. Playoff pitchers are too good to make many mistakes.
And the bullpen needs to get ahead of the hitters. Careful on the first pitch, but pound the strike zone. Kimbrel’s re-discovery of the strike zone may be a deciding factor. His performance over the weekend was sad in the deepest sense. Great talent, poor consistency.
These fragilities show how vulnerable the Red Sox are despite their epic September. Will they sustain that pace or will the Red Sox of October continue the debacle? For Papi’s sake and for mine, I hope the September Sox will come for a curtain call.