The Rangers are breathing down their collective neck, the Yankees are counting down their division-clinching magic number like its New Year's Eve in Times Square and Boston's ace hasn't won a game since early August.
While the typical Boston fan would cringe at this situation, Red Sox Nation is more likely to see these concerns as just a few more reasons to keep the faith and believe in their team.
Even the most buoyant BoSox fan would agree that this summer's Fenway show has had its doubtful moments. From coughing up the division lead back in July to the pitching staff failing to string together quality starts, the Red Sox don't resemble the championship-caliber team they appeared to be on paper in April.
But from Jerry Remy's return to the booth to the induction of Red Sox legend Jim Rice into the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are plenty of reasons to believe that this may just be a team of destiny. Here are 10 more reasons why:
10. Alex Gonzalez
This is no joke. The re-acquisition of Gonzo solidifies the middle of the infield — something the Sox had needed all season long. Despite bringing Gonzo over largely for his glove work, the 11-year veteran has gotten it done with the stick, too, since re-joining the Sox. In 68 games with the Reds this summer, the shortstop hit just .210 with a .554 OPS and three homers. In 22 games with the Red Sox, Gonzalez has banked a .289 BA to go with a .795 OPS and four homers.
9. Brad Penny and John Smoltz
The Sox no longer needed to rely on these two veteran hurlers to get it done. Neither of the two offseason gambles really paid off, as both righties seem to be better suited for the National League pace and style of play. Thank goodness that having to sit through a nine-inning set featuring Tubby or Gramps is a thing of the past.
8. Joey "Dave Roberts" Gathright
The acquisition of Joey Gathright didn't seem like a big deal, did it? Neither did bringing in Dave Roberts in 2004. Gathright is blessed with speed and sense on the base paths and he gives Terry Francona that late-inning set of legs he has been missing all summer.
7. Yankee Sweeps
Boston opened up the 2009 season series against the Bronx Bombers by slapping them around eight straight times. Although they were swept out of Yankee Stadium in a four-game series in early August, the 2009 Sox proved that they have what it takes — at least at times — to dominate anyone, anywhere.
6. The Emergence of Clay Buchholz
Few teams have captured a World Series title with just a pair of solid starters. And the way Clay Buchholz has picked up his game of late, it appears that the Red Sox will now have a reliable third starter down the stretch. Buchholz earned his way back into the rotation after a half season in the minors. After falling to 1-3, the young righty has stormed back onto the scene, winning his last four decisions. In 11 starts this season, Buchholz has held opponents to three runs or less nine times.
5. Win it for Wake
Call being a knuckleballer the easiest job in professional baseball if you want, but Tim Wakefield is putting it all on the line this season. And the way things have been looking lately, it could very well be his last. The 43-year-old is doing everything he can — cortisone shots, rehabs and side sessions — to keep his All-Star season going and get the Sox back to baseball's postseason stage. In addition to the sacrifices the veteran has made this summer, Wakefield finally earned his first trip to the Midsummer Classic and has strung together one of his finest seasons in 15 years as a Boston pitcher. This could very well be the end of an era for the righty, and what better way to send him off than to give him a third ring for those legendary knuckles?
4. Fire in the Hole
After seven innings against a Jon Lester or Josh Beckett, would any batter want to face the heat from some combination of Daniel Bard, Billy Wagner and Jonathan Papelbon out of the pen? These three fire-ballers are capable of being so lights-out that if the Red Sox are up entering the late innings, the game's more or less in the bag.
3. Big Papi's Big Turnaround
The game's most dangerous postseason hitter has finally found his stroke. After kicking off the season by going what felt like 0-for-April and May, David Ortiz has shown considerably more power in recent months. In his last 22 games, Papi has belted eight homers and driven in 18. Despite a disappointing postseason last fall, Papi's playoff resume could scare the seams off a slider any day of the week.
2. V-Mart Aboard
The addition of Victor Martinez not only gives the club its much-needed No. 3 hitter, it creates arguably the most potent offense in the game. The RBI machine can not only catch and play first, he can catch the knuckleball, making his services that much more vital when Tim Wakefield is on his game. V-Mart came over with high expectations and the Venezuelan has met them fully. In his first 35 games with Boston, Martinez has put up a .321 BA with six homers, 25 RBIs and a .908 OPS.
1. Fenway In the Fall
Forget the New England foliage, Fenway in the fall is where the real show is. Filled to the brim with the most passionate, knowledgeable and maniacal fans this sport has ever seen, the Fens is an unwelcome late-season venue for any opponent. The game's oldest ballyard becomes the game's biggest advantage when the green wall is rumbling from "Sweet Caroline" serenades and Sam Adams-fueled cheers. Fenway in the fall is like nowhere else.
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