The Red Sox reached their first magic number of 2013 Tuesday night. Boston won its 69th game of the season, trouncing the Houston Astros 15-10 and equaling last season's victory total.
So if John Farrell can guide his team to a 1-46 record the rest of the way, he'll surpass Bobby Valentine for sole possession of the 12th spot [check my math here] on the Red Sox all-time managerial victories list.
A tall order for sure, especially with this bullpen, but Farrell appears up for the task. Last season, the Red Sox lost 12 of their final 13 games, winning No. 69 on Sept. 23. The Red Sox nearly matched the 7-20 finish of 2011 by going 7-19 in September.
They added three straight losses in October to put the imperfect cap on their worst season since the year Medicare became law.
By then, the path to the resurrection that this season has become had already been laid thanks to the organ-transplant/trade that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto for a fist-full of no-names [sorry Allen Webster fans, he just isn't doing it for me] and $262 million of contract liability relief.
The hammer of Thor mercifully came down with Valentine's dismissal, which was the easiest decision John Henry has had to make this side of giving a certain bespectacled blogger Stephen Drew money, his own EMC suite at Fenway and a follow on Twitter.
Tuesday night's beatdown of the Astros began ugly enough, with knuckleballer Steven Wright doing all the wrong things. He gave up three runs, walking two and giving up a hit. Meanwhile, Ryan Lavarnway allowed a record four passed balls [tying the MLB record] in the first inning. As Wright's comedic namesake would say: "I lost a button hole today."
But this was against the Astros, who moved to the AL West this year but have all the talent befitting the International League South. The Red Sox would obliterate a four-run lead. Boston's bats unloaded, with Jacoby Ellsbury hitting two runs, including a space shot that landed in the second deck in right field. Jonny Gomes added a pinch-hit three-run homer as the Red Sox pounded out 15 hits.
This game on Tuesday proved that you can make tactical managerial mistakes and get away with them when you're the visiting team playing at Minute Maid Park.
A night after being shut out by some guy most of us never heard of, although I saw him pitching during spring training, the Red Sox bounced back with 15 runs and wiped out a 7-3 deficit. Just another crazy night in the baseball summer of 2013. The Red Sox weren't in a position to add to this season's walkoff total of 11 since they were on the road. But that wasn't needed.
Beyond the symbolic significance of Win No. 69, the Red Sox lurched out to a 1 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay [6-1 losers at Arizona] in the A.L. East.
But it gets better, the Yankees lost 3-2, their second night with Alex Rodriguez back in the lineup.
And hating the Yankees, I mean really hating the Yankees like it was 2004, came back into vogue along with A-Rod. No more Mariano Rivera cheers this season, or reciprocal good wishes that they shared with loads of class after the Marathon bombings.
We're back in pure sports hate mode until further notice.
The Yankees now trail the Red Sox by 10 1/2 games in the A.L. East. It's Boston's biggest lead over New York since July 6, 2007. But this isn't 2007 and these aren't the 2007 Red Sox.
Old-timers like me think "1978" whenever the Red Sox have a big lead over New York. But this isn't 1978 and these aren't those Yankees. As we noted before the season began, the 2013 Yankees are becoming the 2012 Red Sox. Except they have the added bonus of the most-hated player in baseball taking up a spot in their order while he appeals a 211-game suspension. Each night A-Rod is eligible to play, it costs the Yankees $175,000.
That's certainly a nice silver lining in the cloud he's put over baseball. The only way A-Rod could help the Yankees is if all that garbage he's been ingesting over the years allowed him to grow a third arm and pitch.
A-Rod got booed again Tuesday. The only time Chicago White Sox crowd cheered him was when Chris Sale grazed A-Rod with a pitch off the elbow in the third inning.
"There's something wrong with that," manager Joe Girardi said. ''I often think that it starts from the adults. And if it was their child, would they want them to be hit? Because the kids will only repeat what the adults do."
My kid would never get himself suspended until 2015 after lying for years about taking drugs not allowed in his work place.
Joe, what kids see is a guy who pumps his body full of toxins, untested and illegal substances while getting paid $27.5 million [10 years, $275 million] to play baseball. They see a liar and a cheat. Those kids see someone who has managed to make it all about himself at the expense of his teammates, who are forced to deal with his rubbish and lie through their teeth about how he's no distraction.
Whatever illicit garbage A-Rod has swallowed, pumped or stuck into his system to prolong his career will no doubt cause more harm to his body than any plunking, accidental or otherwise, by Sale.
Yeah, no one is supposed to cheer when someone gets hurt, but A-Rod wasn't hurt on this play. He smiled and trotted to first base.
If his fellow MLBPA members are as mad at A-Rod as we're being let to believe by the baseball media, why shouldn't those who pitch bean him the right way [thigh, butt, side, back; no elbows, wrists, joints or anywhere near the head] on certain occasions.
Let's say you're a pitcher who's struggled to make the majors, or happen to be a former Cy Young award winner, and have kept yourself clean. Or even if you're juicing.
You know A-Rod has been cheating and so does everyone else. Purpose pitches have been a part of baseball since the ball was round. Planting one in A-Rod's lower back perhaps once per series would be a great way to let him and the rest of baseball know that you and your teammates aren't happy with the fact that he's using your union dollars to pay those attorneys to handle his appeal while trashing your sport and chosen profession in the process.
Each time A-Rod steps to the plate, he chips away at baseball's fast-fading and nearly non-existent credibility when it comes to stopping PED usage. The fact that he's playing is a sad indictment of just how weak baseball really is here and how desperate the Yankees are to continue to put out the facade of a competitive season.
[See the 2012 Red Sox until about Aug. 15.]
50-game suspensions are like three-week vacations for regular folks. Even Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta will be back in time for the playoffs. Ryan Braun's season was over, with or without his suspension.
Baseball's PED penalty code should read like this. First offense, gone for 162 games. Second offense, gone for life. Meanwhile, Pete Rose, who's been apologizing for his sins since finally admitting that he bet on baseball in 2004, continues to not be in the Hall of Fame. Joke.
Back to those statement pitches. We're not talking intent to injure, nor would it ever be acceptable for fans to throw items or attempt anything beyond yelling, booing or a strategically placed sign.
While cheering when an opponent is hit by a pitch, especially accidentally, is poor sportsmanship about 99.9999 percent of the time, having one pro send a message to another is old-fashioned hardball.
Sportsmanship and A-Rod went out the window sometime between the time he swatted Bronson Arroyo with his purse, called out that pop-up against Toronto and lied for the billionth time about taking PEDs.
He is no longer deserving of baseball civility given his contempt for the civilization within baseball.
This truism remains - A-Rod will be hated and vilified by Yankee fans and the New York tabloids until or if he starts producing. Then his apologists and those fans, hopefully not all, will find a way to justify his presence.
In the meantime, he'll be booed [just booed we hope], perhaps hear some good one-liners and be the subject of witty and derisive signage.
In a perfect world, both A-Rod and the Yankees would fade into irrelevance for the rest of the season very quickly.
The Red Sox, thankfully, are in a perfect position right now to help make that happen.
69 wins and counting.
More magic numbers to come.
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