Are you converted yet?
Are you ready to believe that the 2013 Red Sox are cut from championship cloth?
Does 66 wins – just three short of last year’s season-ending total – do it for you?
How about a mind-blowing comeback from five runs down in the ninth inning that produced a walk-off 8-7 triumph?
It certainly seems as though we should all be pumped up for October and a deep playoff run. These Red Sox appear sprinkled with stardust.
They have 11 walk-off wins this season, including magical back-to-back victories on Wednesday and Thursday against the Seattle Mariners.
Their most recent comeback was one for the ages, the first time the Red Sox won a game in which they trailed by six runs as late as the eighth inning since 1940 and only the second time in 102 years. It was aided by a goof from acting Mariners manager Robby Thompson, who mistakenly tapped his left arm when approaching the mound to make a ninth-inning pitching change.
Crew chief Gary Darling noticed, and forced Thompson to bring in left-hander Oliver Perez instead of right-hander Yoervis Medina to face Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia.
Victorino capitalized on Seattle’s confusion, singling to right-center, and Pedroia followed with another hit, slicing the deficit to 7-6. Two batters later, with Medina finally in the game, Jonny Gomes tied it.
Afterward, the colorful Gomes labeled it “microwave baseball.”
Unquestionably, all signs point in positive directions. We should be bullish on this team, which has displayed the resilience and tenacity that defines a champion.
And yet . . . I’m just not there.
I applaud the Red Sox for what they have accomplished, which is much more than sitting atop the AL East. In amazingly short order, they have made us forget chicken-and-beer, Bobby Valentine and the September collapse of 2011. They have fans cheering for them again. Led by John Farrell’s steady hand, they are likeable, even admirable.
And still, I can’t quite buy in yet.
I wonder if this is smoke-and-mirrors stuff, winning with a lineup that, at least on paper, frightens no one. Daniel Nava and Brock Holt played significant roles in Thursday’s astonishing rally. With Julio Iglesias traded in the Jake Peavy deal, Holt is their third baseman, unless Will Middlebrooks rediscovers his hitting stroke and is recalled from Pawtucket.
Mike Carp batted fifth. Stephen Drew is now their only viable shortstop.
After Jacoby Ellsbury, Pedroia and Ortiz, and occasionally Mike Napoli (although he has cooled off considerably), who scares you in that lineup?
The starting pitching is average, at best. John Lackey has been their most reliable starter this season, and that alone should send shudders down your spine.
Jon Lester remains an enigma, with a 10-6 record, but a 4.27 ERA. Would you really be comfortable seeing him on the mound in Game 7 of a playoff series?
Clay Buchholz is 9-0, 1.71 and would be their unquestioned ace, but aces earn that label by being the reliable horse of the staff. Let’s just say Buchholz is no Patrice Bergeron when it comes to dealing with injuries.
Peavy’s arrival should help, but let’s not get carried away. Since winning the Cy Young Award in 2007, which is a long time ago in the life of a pitcher, his record is 61-52, and he hasn’t won more than 11 games in any season. Although he is 8-4 this year, his ERA is a mediocre 4.28. That sounds a lot like Lester.
And how will an inexperienced closer perform under the white-hot glare of the postseason? Will Koji Uehara, who had 23 career saves entering this season, turn into Byung-Hyun Kim?
As we sit here on Aug. 2, the Red Sox hold a tenuous one-game edge on Tampa Bay. Under the new playoff format, capturing the division is critical. The Red Sox have 52 games remaining; 36 against teams with winning records.
It’s not going to be easy. But it definitely will be interesting. And when you consider the low expectations beginning the season – many national experts picked them to finish last – an interesting final two months is about all we could have asked.
Rob Duca was an award-winning sports columnist for the Cape Cape Times for 25 years. His work has also appeared in numerous other publications, including Sports Illustrated, the Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun, Yankee magazine, Cape Cod Life and Golf & Leisure Cape Cod