Wednesday night, the Red Sox won their 100th game of baseball in the 2018 season. I don’t need to do a ton of research for anyone to understand the gravity of that number. So few teams win that amount of games. The last time the Sox did it was 1946. They’ve only done it three times. Ever. The most recent playoff squads have been close, but in my time as a fan, it’s always been a question of if, rather than when.
This season, the question really did become a matter of when.
For a little context, let’s rewind back to the beginning of the season. The Red Sox are open on a torrid pace, going 21-7 in March and April combined. This is counting a mini slump where they lost 5 of 7 games. The feeling before the slump? Most thought this was a special team. But after the 5 of 7 losses shoe dropped, a lot of people were telling everyone else to hold their horses. And to their credit, it’s a long season. The division is never won in April. But it was apparent, even early on, that this team could do amazing things, and expectations were understandably high.
By the end of May, the team was 39-18. “Just wait until they play good teams!” was a common refrain from those who disliked the Red Sox, and wanted to bring down the high. The Yankees were right there with the Red Sox, though, nobody was running away with the division quite yet.
When June was over, the team was 56-28. The Yankees were still there, only a game back, but the Red Sox were still playing baseball at a ridiculous level. People were excited, but many were already wary of trusting the bullpen, despite the results they had produced. The hope was that the next month would bring several things. A reliever, a second baseman, a third baseman, and in some cases, a starting pitcher were on the wish list.
In July, the Red Sox did acquire Ian Kinsler. With Dustin Pedroia out, and no sign of recovery being feasible, Kinsler’s role on the team would be important. One thing they did not do is bring in another reliever. The team finished the month at 75-34. That’s right. There was the All-Star break to account for, but the Red Sox lost all of 6 games in July. They also managed to really pull ahead of the Yankees for the first time since the very start of the year, now holding a five-game lead.
August only brought more of this success. The Red Sox were now 93-43, and 7.5 up on the Yankees, something that seemed utterly impossible earlier in the season even given how well the Red Sox were playing. A lot of this can be attributed to a 4 game sweep of the Yankees to begin the month, but the team played well on the whole all month, yet again.
Now, it’s September. There are 16 games left. The Red Sox have won 100 games. There’s a chance for the team to finish with 110 wins. Just 5 more wins ties the franchise record. 6 more breaks it. That is a lot of winning.
The Red Sox have beaten just about every team to make it happen, too. The only teams to have more wins than the Red Sox in matchups this year are the White Sox, Athletics and Astros. But all of teams have been played hard by the Red Sox, and a playoff series against the latter two could go either way, and may end up depending on who has home field advantage.
So much for the Sox only beating “garbage teams”.
On paper, it’s hard to make an argument that 100 wins in particular matters. Since 2010, there have been 6 teams to win 100 games (although 3 of them happened last year). Two of the six won the World Series. One lost the World Series. The other three lost in their respective Divisional Series matchups. A 33.3% success rate doesn’t sound very high, when you consider that 10 teams make the playoffs, and two of which are eliminated after a single game.
It’s also not as if the Red Sox have relied on home field to procure their 100 wins. They’ve been just as good on the road as at home, and the Red Sox could probably comfortably go into any park and put up a good fight in the playoffs. Where it does matter, is that many of the other playoff teams (particularly in the American League) are great at home, and only merely good on the road. By forcing a playoff team to go on the road, you lower their chances of winning a series. Even if it’s only a one-game swing, that one-game swing can end up being the difference in a five-game Divisional Series.
The Yankees? They are a significantly better team at home than they are on the road. Their lineup is tailor-made for their home park, whereas on the road, several players just don’t have their stroke. The Indians? They are almost a .500 ballclub on the road. The Athletics are pretty close to their home record on the road, but they definitely enjoy a good home field advantage themselves. The only AL Playoff team that doesn’t have a big disadvantage, seemingly, is the Astros, who are actually significantly better on the road than they are at home.
By winning 100 games, the Red Sox have set the bar extremely high. To get to 100 wins, the Astros have to win 8 of their last 16. To catch the Red Sox just seems inconceivable. The Yankees have an even steeper mountain to climb. They need to win 10 of their last 17 games. The Indians don’t have a chance. They cannot win 100 games now. It is impossible.
The Red Sox have almost assuredly locked up home field throughout the playoffs. I do not think it is all that likely they choke, with what we’ve seen this season. Despite their issues, the Red Sox just continue to win, and push other teams further down the list. They will also almost assuredly face one of the Yankees/Athletics, barring an epic collapse by one of the two (or the Astros, Athletics are making a push), with 3 of the 5 games scheduled to be at Fenway. Getting the Yankees out of Yankee Stadium is a win. Keeping the Athletics on the East Coast raises the win probability of that series, in all likelihood.
The Sox will probably play any team hard, regardless of whether they play at home or on the road. We’ve been spoiled, because we’ve been able to watch a team play as well at home as they play on the road. Not every fan gets to see that. Putting pressure on another team, making sure they know they have to steal one from you, goes a long way towards getting a mental edge.
Maybe the Red Sox get bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe they win the World Series. Maybe they don’t win another game, and lose the division to the Yankees. All of these are certainly possibilities that have a greater than 0% chance of happening.
Regardless of the final result, I believe this is the best team in my history as a fan, and I do not think it is particularly close. I have never seen a Sox team this complete, from top to bottom. The bullpen could certainly be upgraded, but it won’t be, this year.
I’m just glad I got to see a team that won 100 games, and one that has a chance to be truly historic.