The honeymoon was nice while it lasted.
None of us expected much from the Red Sox this year. Before the first home series against Tampa, most of us would have considered a finishing the 2021 season with a .500 record to be a giant step in the right direction. But then the 9-game winning streak happened. And then a prolonged losing streak did not follow. Each time they have looked on the precipice of spiraling down into the sea, the Red Sox have pulled the nose up and righted their course. The good news is that the Red Sox are a relevant team playing meaningful games, at least at this early point in the season. The bad news is that you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. We’ve all seen the good things they are capable of, meaning they have lost the privilege of being a scrappy underdog that may impress in 2021 even if they miss the playoffs. Nobody that is tied for the best record in the big leagues is allowed to skate by due to low offseason expectations.
This past week has been beyond frustrating. After playing a ballbusting schedule early on, the Red Sox arrived at a lull in their schedule last weekend. The Rangers, Tigers, and Orioles all suck. None of them have any hope of accomplishing anything this season, and there’s not a fan in the league that doesn’t know it. Yet the Red Sox pitching staff crapped the bed immediately after landing in Arlington. The Sox lost three out of four, blew lead after lead, and gave us traumatic flashbacks to the reprehensible middle relief we were forced to bear witness to throughout 2019 and 2020. I blame myself. I moved to Texas in March, and I refuse to subscribe to cable. The MLB package blacks out all Rangers and Astros games for me, and I believe that the Sox simply couldn’t find their bearings without my support.
Then they got back to Fenway, where they have not fared well the last few years, to face a Tigers team that would probably have trouble overcoming Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez and the rest of the squad from The Sandlot. Boston pitching, particularly the bullpen, was even worse in that series. The Red Sox had to scratch and claw like it was the 2004 ALCS to take two out of three from Detroit at home. Eovaldi, Perez, Andriese, Sawamura, even Garrett Whitlock got worked by lineups with less pop than a team full of Al Newmans. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention Austin Brice or Josh Taylor. That’s because all the other guys I listed had performed well this year until they got to Texas. Brice and Taylor got roughed up as bad or worse as all the others this week, but it’s not like we’ve come to expect anything less from them.
This week, we saw all of the weaknesses that we expected to see when this team arrived in Fort Myers in February: inconsistent hitting from a top-heavy lineup, weak middle relief, poor defense, and failure to play well at home. As I write this, the Sox are up 4-2 in the seventh inning of the first of four games at Camden Yards. I have all all the faith in the world in Alex Cora to pull the Red Sox out of what has thus far been a mini slump, and the Orioles are the perfect opponent for a struggling team looking to regain their swagger.
This weekend, I’m hoping to see Boston do what good teams do: take advantage of weak competition to pad their division lead. The AL East race is tight, the Yankees are starting to hit, the Rays haven’t been the Devil Dogs in a long time, and Boston’s hot start has killed off any hope of sliding in under the radar. They’re not surprising anyone anymore. The Boston Red Sox are a good baseball team again. It’s hard enough to win games in the major leagues when nobody respects you. It’s even harder to do it when everybody knows they need to bring their A-game to beat you. Time to nut up and get ready for the marathon. Best record in the league or not, we’re 33 games into a 162-game season. It’s time to show the world that the Red Sox aren’t just visiting the top of the heap, but are here to stay.