There was debate over whether or not we should be doing this.
For a team that so many had picked to win the World Series because of their off-season acquisitions, a roster packed with talent, and a competent front-office, the 2011 Boston Red Sox seemed unstoppable, at least before the season started.
But let's face it: the unraveling of the 2011 season was an exercise in the proverbial crap hitting not just one fan, but multiple fans, simultaneously. And it culminated in one too many losses to make the playoffs, ending in heart-breaking fashion. And what followed were accusations about player's work ethics and coach's personal lives. And with 2011 signaling the end of an era with Theo Epstein and Terry Francona, it is easy to understand why the shadow cast over the 2011 season has been largely negative.
But while the destination of 2011 sucked, sometimes the journey was quite fun. There were unique and exciting moments in the 2011 season that seem bittersweet now when we look at them through the cynicism and disappointment that September created, but when those great moments are considered autonomously, they are just that: great moments that made watching the 2011 season enjoyable.
Looking at some of the best moments of 2011 is not meant to diminish the frustrations, issues, and sadness that were created by the struggles-- it's just an opportunity to celebrate some of the smaller victories of the season, lest we forget about them forever.
So with that, I bring you the Best Moments of 2011 (after the jump).Dustin Pedroia's 25 Game Hitting Streak
In the absence of an injured Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia took his role as cleanup hitter seriously. Pedroia's hitting streak started on June 29 and he just kept hitting. During his 25 game hit-streak, Pedroia had 13 multi-hit games, six four-hit games, and one four-hit game. Pedroia's hit-streak included 27 runs, 20 RBI, eight homers, 12 walks, and just seven strikeouts. It seemed as though Pedroia's streak would end at 24 games on July 28, as the Red Sox entered the eighth inning trailing the Royals 4-2, but after an impressive full count battle against Greg Holland, Pedroia launched a high-pitch over the green monster to extend his hitting streak.
While the streak would end at 25, Pedroia went 0-4 in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox, Pedroia's hitting streak was the longest of a Red Sox second basemen, and the 11th longest in club history.
Jed Lowrie's Hot April
The 2011 season started nearly as roughly as it finished: with the Red Sox facing their worst losing streak since World War II, setting the tone for an uncomfortable season. But while the majority of the lineup struggled offensively, Jed Lowrie turned into an offensive juggernaut during April, carrying the team with a .306/.389/.574, which not only made him one of the best hitters in Red Sox lineup, but also in one of the best in baseball.
In his biggest game of April, Jed Lowrie went 4-for-5, with a home run and four RBI in a 9-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
His clutch hitting and consistent power resulted in a tongue-in-cheek Twitter explosion with the #LegendofJedLowrie hashtag, as well as serious, yet premature, discussions about Lowrie replacing Scutaro in the lineup as the starting short stop.
While Lowrie eventually returned to earth as a serviceable utility infielder by the end of the season, his reign as the king of the Red Sox offense in April was something special. If only it had lasted.
Tim Wakefield's 200th Win
On September 13, 2011 Time Wakefield earned career win 200. For a pitcher who stumbled upon his position accidentally, Wakefield's contributions and a knuckleball that has frustrated and confused hitters for 19 seasons have made him a perennial favorite. Wakefield celebrated his 45th birthday just a few weeks before his 200th win, and became one of 89 pitchers to hit the 200 win mark since 1900.
Entering 2011 with 193 wins, it seemed that 200 would remain elusive as Wakefield began the season in relief. However, injury brought Wakefield back to the rotation, and by July 24, he had earned his 199th win. It took a record-setting eight attempts (due to his own unraveling, blown leads, and nonexistent run support) but on a Tuesday night in September, when the Red Sox bats were on fire in an 18-10 win over the Blue Jays at Fenway, came victory 200.
And as Wakefield left the mound, Fenway erupted with applause, standing in appreciation of the veteran pitcher that has meant so much to the Red Sox rotation in the past. The congratulations and the 200 wins were well deserved, and his years of service and dedication to the Red Sox were recognized for one of the last times.
Josh Beckett's One-Hit Shutout
Josh Beckett pitched one of his career best performances on June 15th; and most of Boston missed it. It was a routine mid-season game against the Rays, which happened to be the same night that the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-0.
But quietly in Tampa, Josh Beckett was pitching one of his career best: a one-hit shut out against the Rays. What began as an opportunity for Beckett to get his sixth win of the season (and his first against the Rays) resulted in nine shutout innings, zero walks, and just one hit.
Were it not for a single by Reid Brignac in the third inning, Beckett would have had a perfect game. And for a pitcher who has been the subject of much criticism over the years about his ability and dedication, seeing Josh Beckett silence the rans in a 3-0 shut out was a thing of beauty...and definitely one of the best outings by a Red Sox pitcher in 2011.
In case you missed this game in the midst of excessive Bruins celebrations (perhaps you are still celebrating) it's worth digging up on MLB.tv or wherever you archive all Red Sox games (we know you keep them all...secret it safe with us).
Walk-Off Carl Crawford
Carl Crawford was a nearly constant source of vitirol and disappointment in 2011. Crawford began the season miserably-contributing little offensively and making mistakes on defense, which raised concern that the Red Sox had overpaid and he was not cut-out for a bigger stage than Tampa.
But in May, Crawford endeared himself to teammates and fans with a few flashes of greatness, in the form of three walk-off hits, that silenced his critics...at least temporarily.
May 1: With just his second RBI in Fenway Park since his addition to the Red Sox roster, Crawford singled to score Jed Lowrie (from third) in the ninth-inning against the Seattle Mariners. While most cringed as Crawford, who entered the game hitting just .155, approached the plate, it was all smiles and dog-piles in the 3-2 victory at Fenway Park.
May 10: In the series finale against the Minnesota Twins, Carl Crawford propelled the Red Sox to victory with a double off of the Green Monster with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning, scoring pinch runner Jose Igesias from first.
May 19: The Red Sox blew a 3-1 lead by giving up back-to-back home runs to Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera, a ninth inning rally led to a two-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers. With the bases loaded, Carl Crawford hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth, resulting in a 4-3 victory. This game was Boston's sixth straight win, their highest streak of the season at that point.
The 2011 season was a juxtaposition for the outfielder who spent the majority of 2010 on the disabled list, where is toughness and talent were questioned. But for everything 2010 was not, 2011 was filled with gems that left folks scratching their heads wondering where the playing ability and power suddenly came from.
August 2: Ellsbury's first career walk-off hit came in Cleveland in a dramatic 3-2 win over the Indians. With Saltalmacchia on second (a pinch runner for Varitek), and Reddick on first (after a single), Ellsbury hit a line drive to center and Saltalamacchia was safe at home with a head first slide on a close play at home plate. Red Sox win, 3-2.
August 3: Perhaps relishing in the excitement from his first career walk-off, Ellsbury did it again the next night. Though Ellsbury was 0-for-4 as he approached the plate, he drove the ball over the wall in center field. Red Sox win, 4-3.
September 19: The newfound power streak for Ellsbury, coupled with the speed he has always posessed, created a unique opportunity rarely seen in the Majors: an inside-the-park home run. Ellsbury hit the ball deep to center, which caromed off the bullpen past outfielder Matt Angle. Once Ellsbury saw the bounce, he sped around the base paths and crossed home plate standing up. This was Ellsbury's first inside-the-park home run, and the first for a Red Sox player since Kevin Youkilis in 2007. Red Sox win, 18-9.
September 25: Though most of September was bleak for the Red Sox, the opener of a doubleheader against the Yankees was one of the best games of the season. Ellsbury, who had already homered earlier in the game, hit a three-run homer to win the game in 14 innings. Red Sox win, 7-4.
Moments of Honorable Mention
June 4: After blowing a 7-3 lead to the Oakland A's in the ninth inning, the Red Sox win off a single by JD Drew to left field in the 14th inning, which scored Carl Crawford.
July 17: In a Sunday Night Baseball match versus the Rays that lasted 5 hours and 44 minutes, Dustin Pedroia had five hits, the most important scoring Josh Reddick in the 16th to defeat the Rays 1-0.
August 16: The Red Sox turned a 5-4-3 triple play in the fourth inning against the Rays. With runners on first and second, Sean Rodriguez hit a ground ball to third base. Jed Lowrie forced an out at the base, then threw to second, where Pedroia turned it to first to complete the triple play. This was the first triple play for the Red Sox since 1994.
September 27: Catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway got the most important start of his life on September 27, with Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalmacchia both injured. Lavarnway was sharp defensively, including a huge play in the 9th to throw out Matt Weiters at first, but his biggest contribution was offense: Lavarnway hit two home runs, including a three- run homer. Red Sox win, 8-7.