Forget the 20 runs from last night, if you can. It might be hard because 20 runs is quite a few runs, but since they all came in one game they only count once, and the Red Sox are going to need to win several times to dig themselves out of this hole. It’s mostly a case of my column being on Thursdays and having to write about a doomed team that just scored 20 runs, which is a funny proposition until you have to do it.
Anyhow yeah, last night was great, but the Sox are still in trouble. The signs that they’re in trouble have been mounting for a while mostly in terms of losses but also in terms of roster moves. Martín Pérez was shunted to the bullpen and Garrett Richards followed yesterday. Even before Christian Vázquez went on the bereavement list, Kevin Plawecki started eating into his playing time based on his competent bat. The hands? They are all on deck.
Until last night, nothing worked. Then everything did, but there’s a relative long way to go to get back to first place. Frankly at this point I’m far more concerned with the teams behind the Sox than the one ahead of them. The Yankees are two games back, but the Blue Jays, two and a half back, scare me even more than the Bronx Bombers, even with their six-ton lineup. The Jays have played in three home parks this year, yet they’ve hung around and made a note-perfect deadline move to complement a team that destroys the Sox and Yanks in run differential. The Jays look like a contender to win the World Series for years to come, not just make it, or vie for it, and frankly, good for them.
The Sox don’t look quite like that, but they’re certainly still good enough this year to put a charge into it. It just might not be enough any more. The trade deadline dovetailing with their worst stretch of the year was an unfortunate coincidence, but also kinda funny, because it gave ammunition for the play GMs to praise or bury Chaim Bloom while Rome fell, so to speak. On the one hand, the Sox’s strategy of cheap deals only was amusing because of how little faith it put in the team-as-constituted; there was plenty of room at the back end for them to get better without a bigger deal being an acknowledgment that they were playing over their heads. On the other hand, nothing the Sox did short of trading for Jose Berríos themselves could have stopped the Jays from leapfrogging them on pure might.
And so we’re in the “time is a flat circle” portion of the season, where the four-way AL East battle envisioned in April has re-emerged, far more violently that expected in the spring. Only the Sox saw this developing and decided to focus on the long term, and only Bloom came out and said as much. I respect a guy who sticks to his guns, in principle, but suddenly there are teams all around the Sox with not just guns but missiles and H-bombs and whatnot. Sometimes sticking to your guns can get you got.
Frankly, the Sox might have played themselves right out of the division, the only saving move if they could actually play themselves, they could rack up enough wind to get back in it. Except last night. Twenty-one runs? In this economy? That’s too many. Twenty-one is hard to hit, after all, and if this was a casino Boston’s odds of nailing blackjack have gone way down. It’s still possible. I just wouldn’t bet on it.