This Red Sox season was truly a tale of two halves. In the first half of the year, they looked like unexpected world-beaters. With most people hoping for just a .500 team, the team did everyone one better by not just putting themselves in the postseason picture, but leading the division for a big chunk of the year. And then the second half came and they suddenly looked like the team we all expected originally, except the expectations had changed due to that first half performance. And really, it does seem forever since we’ve talked about that first half team, the club who made absolutely no sense at all but just kept winning. But in reality it wasn’t all that long ago, and we got a glimpse of it again this weekend.
It really isn’t an exaggeration to say that the club made no sense. Their lineups were nonsensical, their rotation was impossibly healthy, and they just figured out ways to win. A lot. Things would seem hopeless, and they would fall behind, but eventually they’d get back up and win the game. It became almost routine in a strange way. This is a team that came from behind to win 47 times this year, and really the peaked in July.
July was an absolutely wild time, and it’s been easy to forget what things were like right then because of how the month ended and the bad taste in some mouths at that point. But in the middle of the month, coming out of the All-Star break and playing the Yankees. it really felt like magic. They had five games against New York for that series, taking four of five with the bookends coming with the aforementioned magic.
In the opener, they tied the Yankees at one in the seventh, but then immediately fell behind by two again in the eighth. Kiké Hernández tied it on a two-out, two-run double in the ninth, and after giving up a run in the 10th they take advantage of two wild pitches and win. and then in the finale, they entered the eighth trailing 4-0 before rallying for a wild five-run ninth to take the lead and ultimately win. It was only a sampling of the magic we’d seen all year, and came right before everything came crashing down hard.
At the time it wasn’t so much referred to as magic as it was resilience, and it was the defining characteristic of the first half version of this club. Not just in individual games, but in all aspects of their season they answered adversity with their A-game, subverting any and all expectations for the season, individual games, and everything in between. But then in the closing days of July and all of August, there was none. The team took punch after punch, but instead of showing that fight from the first half, they just took it. And kept taking it, until the division was out of reach.
But it seems like that resilience came back this weekend, because believe me the Red Sox took a punch heading into this series. Having been swept by the Yankees and then losing two of three to the Orioles, it wouldn’t have been too shocking to anyone if they didn’t get the sweep this weekend, even against another bad team like the Nationals. Sweeping is hard under any circumstances! It’s especially hard when you’re trending as badly as they were coming into the series.
And you can also believe me when I say they had every opportunity to lose each and every one of these games. The offense had absolutely nothing for a lot of this series, until putting a lot of pressure on the starters. At least once during all three of the games, it looked more likely than not that they would lose. They way things were trending in the second half, it was easy to forget that this was still largely the same team from the first half, the team that got back up after taking a punch and threw one right back, but a little bit harder. That’s the team we saw this weekend, the team we saw on Sunday pull a win out of thin air with their backs against the wall.
Maybe it wasn’t resilience during that first half, and we were just getting caught up in the random noise that is baseball on an individual, day-by-day basis. Maybe the second half was just the overcorrection for the first half, and the baseball gods just happened to re-correct at the perfect time this past weekend. But I think it was resilience, and I think it’s just one of those things in the DNA of this team. You can’t really be sure of anything, I suppose. But I am pretty sure that it is going to take a big deficit on Tuesday for me to count this team out. I’ve seen them come back from a punch too many times this year, even if it had gotten a little easy to forget.