My girlfriend and I returned home on Sunday after being on the road for over two weeks, and it felt amazing to finally be back in our apartment. Traveling is a lot of fun, but when a vacation exceeds a week, you get tired of living out of your suitcase and you long for nothing more than to sleep in your own bed.
I was so exhausted on Sunday that I didn’t even pay a single ounce of attention to the series finale between the Red Sox and the Mariners at Fenway Park, which turned out to be my single biggest mistake of the 2018 Red Sox season. I missed Chris Sale pitching one of his classic Chris Sale games – seven innings, no runs, four hits, 13 strikeouts. I missed the Red Sox actually scoring a few runs for him, albeit not until the fifth inning, but they still crossed the plate five times in the game.
I missed one of the best Red Sox games of the season, a 5-0 victory at home over one of the better teams in baseball – a Mariners team that, if the season ended today, would travel once again to Boston for a one-game wild card play-in. The Red Sox have made the playoffs three times since the creation of the Wild Card Game, and each time they’ve been fortunate enough to win the division to avoid playing in one of them.
That might not be the case in 2018, however. With the Sox off on Monday, I had plenty of time to sit around and ponder that possibility. Thinking about watching the Red Sox play in a Wild Card Game is about as nerve-racking as a doctor’s appointment. A one-game playoff? It’s essentially a Game 7. It’s the baseball version of a March Madness game. If you lose in the Wild Card Game, your postseason is over before it even really begins.
In a perfect world, Sale would turn in another season worthy of Cy Young consideration, JD Martinez and Mookie Betts would each hit 45 homers, David Price would win 20 games, Rafael Devers would learn how to play good defense at third base, the Red Sox would surpass the Yankees once and for all, win their third consecutive AL East championship and not even have to concern themselves with the Wild Card Game. There’s no reason it can’t happen. The Sox are only a half game behind the Yanks with three months of season left, after all.
But the reality of the situation really sank in for me this past weekend while I was in Indianapolis having lunch with one my college buddies. He is a diehard Yankees fan, and while we were discussing the 2018 Major League Baseball season, he mentioned how one of our teams was inevitably going to have to play in the one-game playoff. That’s when it really hit me that, man, this might finally be the year that Red Sox Nation has to go through that.
If it happens, Sale would likely be the starting pitcher as long as they have a chance to set their rotation ahead of the game. That should give every Sox fan confidence, but it should also terrify them. What if Sale struggles like he did against Houston in last year’s ALDS? What if Sale is perfect, but the Boston batters can’t score any runs for him, which we all know has been known to happen time to time? As great as Sale is (and seriously, he’s great … the most electric Red Sox starter since Pedro Martinez in the late 1990s), would any Boston fan go into that game thinking, piece of cake, we’ve got this. I sure wouldn’t. You wouldn’t either, and you know it.
Of course, there’s no need to worry about it right now. We haven’t even reached the All-Star break yet, and there is still plenty of time for the Sox to win the division. But unless they go on an all-time great midseason run and the Yankees suffer from a historic, monumental collapse, it’s at leastgoing to be right there in the back of all our minds for the next three months. And in October, that worry might actually become a reality. So, you know, go out there and win the division, please.