There is always hope

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Last night wasn't a turning point. But it was a reminder of the best of baseball.

...we have arrived in a world waiting to be born! A world as fresh and new as a rose on the verge of opening! That is what is happening now, I believe. That is what we hear, and what we sense... what has filled us with such marvelous, helpless joy. -Stephen King, The Langoliers

This win probably isn't different. Ultimately, it's the same as every other win. The Red Sox scored more runs than their opponent, just like they've done 40 times this year and 9,000 times before that. Boston will still take the field this afternoon in last place, 9.5 games behind Baltimore; their playoff hopes will still be forlorn at best. But damned if it doesn't feel different. It feels new, somehow.

It feels new because the young guys carried the team. Rubby De La Rosa pitched fine. Not great, he didn't flash that changeup that looked so devastating in his first few starts. He only lasted into the fifth, but he held Chicago to three runs on a night when the offense needed all the help it could get. Christian Vazquez showed off the defensive poise that earned him his promotion mere hours before gametime. Jackie Bradley. Well, he did this...

Mookie Betts started an eighth-inning rally with an infield double(!), and scored the game-tying run from first on a Daniel Nava double. And Brock Holt added to his legend with his first walkoff hit.

It feels new because those young guys had the chance to play. It's been obvious since the Punto Trade that Boston has been looking to go young, but there's just as clearly been hesitation in the last few months. Signing A.J. Pierzynski rather than rolling the dice with Vazquez or Dan Butler caddying David Ross. Calling Stephen Drew at the first sign of trouble on the left side of the infield. Riding with Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy when both obviously weren't right. And it's understandable. If there's one thing ballclubs want to avoid generally, it's risk, and nothing's riskier than a rookie. But at some point you have to play the kids. A major-league ready prospect isn't of any use to the team if he's in Pawtucket: if he can play, play him or trade him to someone who will.

It feels new because the team is clearly moving. The DFA of Pierzynski, as happy as a moment as it was for all of us, was only the first step. Trade rumors have abounded, mainly focused on Peavy (whose time with the Sox was perfectly summed up by friend of OTM Chad Finn), but including most of the veterans. And although the Boston front office is normally quite tight-lipped when it comes to moves that will actually happen, this seems a clear case of smoke suggesting fire. Boston's older players will soon be on the move.

It feels new because it felt joyful. I can only speak for myself, of course, but judging from the way Twitter was approaching the game, I don't think I'm alone here. When Mookie Betts took second base on a soft grounder because the entire Chicago infield took a nap, we weren't wondering how the Sox would screw up this scoring opportunity, we were marveling at Mookie's awareness. Fans looked forward to the ninth inning. They had faith that the team could pull out the win. When Daniel Nava scored the winning run, no one gave a damn that Boston's in last place. It was pure happiness at a well-fought victory.

It feels new because... well, because it's new. We've had a couple of these "turning point" games this year. They never panned out. And I'm not going to say this one will spark the most improbable playoff run in league history. But it was different. The others were won as they've been won for a decade past: by David Ortiz, with flashing smile and furious bat, crushing the souls of late-inning relievers. Papi has been the salvation of this team, this franchise, this city, more times than any of us can count. But he won't be here forever. Last night, the kids delivered. There was a hint, tiny, ephemeral, the smallest of possible samples, that the team will be alright. That there is a future for this franchise.

It feels new because at its best, baseball always feels new. This is the one thing, the greatest thing, that separates baseball from other sports. As long as there is one more batter at the plate, there is hope. David Ortiz won't be called out because the clock hit 0:00. Nor will Mookie Betts, nor Xander Bogaerts, nor a child just now learning to hold a bat in Georgia or Cuba or the Dominican. It is incredibly improbable that a baseball team will come back from a ten-run deficit with two outs in the ninth inning. But it is possible. And all any team can do for its fans, really, is remind them of that possibility. Last night, the Red Sox did that. With a little daring, a little luck, and a lot of youth, it feels like they'll keep doing it for a while.

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