By Tyler Maher
We’ve reached Indigenous People’s Day, and the Boston Red Sox are still playing. As a Red Sox fan, I have to admit there were numerous times this year when I did not think that would be the case.
I certainly did not think so before the season started, when many experts projected the team to finish around .500. Even that appeared optimistic given the strength of their division and their seemingly “meh” offseason in the wake of an atrocious 2020 campaign.
My worst fears immediately materialized as the Red Sox were swept by the horrendous Baltimore Orioles at home to start the season. The Orioles would only win 49 more games after that, losing 19 in a row at one point en route to another embarrassingly bad season. The new-look Red Sox appeared DOA.
Boston immediately turned its season around, producing the best record in the American League for much of the first half as their offense, rotation, and bullpen all exceeded expectations. Their dominance was clearly unsustainable, however, and sure enough, they came crashing back to earth during the dog days of summer.
Following a disappointing trade deadline in which they failed to acquire much-needed pitching help, the Red Sox slipped from first to third in their division in a matter of weeks. Their hopes of winning the AL East evaporated as an untimely COVID-19 outbreak ravaged their roster down the stretch, mitigating the much-anticipated return of Chris Sale. Their defense suffered, their pitching collapsed, and a once-promising season seemed to be fading away.
But even when COVID and injuries left them shorthanded during the most critical juncture of the season, the Red Sox continued to battle. Aided by a soft schedule, they kept finding ways to win, often in come-from-behind, edge-of-your-seat fashion. An eight-game winning streak in mid-September essentially saved their season, keeping them alive in a furious four-team race for the two AL wild-card spots.
A brutal sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees and losing another series to those pesky Orioles removed any margin for error entering the final weekend of the regular season. Boston took care of business, however, sweeping the Nationals in Washington to clinch the top Wild Card spot, setting up an epic showdown with the Yankees at Fenway Park in the AL Wild Card Game.
After back-to-back frustrating campaigns that resulted in a widespread turnover on Boston’s roster as well as their front office, the Red Sox had reached the postseason against overwhelming odds.
Boston wasn’t merely content with reaching the playoffs, however. Up against Gerrit Cole and a Yankees team that many had picked to win the American League before the season started, the Red Sox beat them for the first time since July 25. Despite burning Sale during the regular-season finale, Boston cruised to a 6-2 win after knocking out Cole in the third inning and getting a gem from Nathan Eovaldi – the same Eovaldi who’d lost to the Orioles on Opening Day.
Now, the Red Sox find themselves in an ALDS showdown with the Tampa Bay Rays, who paced the AL with 100 wins this season. While Tampa Bay proved to be the superior team during the regular season, Boston has its eyes set on the ALCS after fighting to a 2-1 series lead after an extra-innings walk-off home run by Christian Vázquez last night.
The Red Sox weren’t supposed to get this far. But somehow, someway, they have, and they’re still trying to go a little farther. If the 2021 season has taught us anything, it’s that you shouldn’t count out these Boston Red Sox.
Tyler Maher is a Content Editor for The Game Day who hopes the Red Sox have a few more wins left in them. You can reach him via email at email@example.com.
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