Erase a poor finish to 2011 with a great 2012. Rebound from a tough start to 2012 with a strong summer. Beat off injuries to put together a winning streak. Find a way to get into the playoffs despite playing .500 ball late into July.
But Tuesday night, the Red Sox at last came through on their end of the bargain. The storybook called not only for Boston to play spoiler to New York's playoff hopes but also to chip away at the years of misery the Yankees have brought by advancing to postseason fun while the Fenway Faithful's playoff ambitions ended early.
The Red Sox did play spoiler to the Yankees on Tuesday, beating them 4-3 while the Orioles won elsewhere in the American League East, evening the division race. But Boston also provided a few left hooks toward knocking New York out of the playoff picture for good, a la the Sox of 2011. While plenty of baseball remains, Boston knows what it can do with a series sweep, and Phase 1 is complete.
Taking the win wasn't the only story of Tuesday night. Just as important was how the Red Sox did it. While everyone hoped the team would come back swinging after it took a breather Monday from a 1-11 stretch, the fact that the Sox made it happen in usual Boston fashion was just as important. Grit, timely hits and a walk-off win — these are the usual harbingers of Red Sox success that Yankees fans have become accustomed to over recent years. If something needs to be thrown into the mighty cogs that make up the Yankees machine, have it be a Boston special.
The opportunity continues Wednesday and Thursday night, with a Yankees team that can provide a choke at the worst of moments (remember which team it was that gave the Sox their first win in that unmemorable start to the 2011 season?) ready to really kick this one away.
The Yankees may be confident and ready to ride out this poor stretch of their season, but their play Tuesday night seemed to suggest otherwise. Dropped popups, late throws, miscues here and there — this team may still be contending for a playoff spot, but it's playing right into that Red Sox lucky streak that gives the hometown players a win when the visitors had a combined 20 men left on base.
No one needs to chronicle what a pain the Yankees have been to the Red Sox over the years, or the resilience New York has had in pulling out wins to get into the playoffs.
But, after the Red Sox affirmed the fans' hopes that they would play spoiler with one very Boston-like win, there can be wishful thinking. There can be hope. There can be a feeling that one gut punch at this point could salvage a season that has otherwise been less than satisfying.
The Red Sox haven't always dominated the Yankees, but they've found ways in recent years to frustrate them. All they need this time around is — after a season where they failed to do the right thing at the right time over and over — to get some well-placed runs, pitching and victories.
If this is what the Red Sox have been saving themselves for all season, it may be worth it for Boston fans.