BOSTON — The Red Sox are 1-0 in September. Maybe this team is different.
The Red Sox have had a special season, to say the least, but there’s long been an elephant standing outside of Boston’s clubhouse: September. The Red Sox went 7-20 during their historic September collapse of 2011, only to follow up with a 7-22 end to 2012. That history has been enough to create a hint of doubt in even the most optimistic supporters, but this year’s group has repeatedly insisted that the past is the past.
“I think the holdover players are aware of what’s taken place here in the past, but we’ve got so many new faces and that was evident when we broke spring training with eight or nine new players from a year ago,” manager John Farrell said Saturday. “I think the attitude [in the clubhouse] is completely different than it’s been maybe over the last couple of years. Just hearing the talk that is down there, it’s a confident group, but certainly not one that takes anything for granted and that shows in their preparation and their attention to detail.”
If the first game of September is a preview of what’s to come, Red Sox fans might want to gear up for a stressful finish. The Red Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead in Sunday’s series finale against the White Sox, only to see the lead shrink to one run when Chicago posted four runs and knocked Felix Doubront from the game in the fourth inning. It took a bases-loaded escape from Brandon Workman to keep a one-run edge intact.
The Red Sox quickly rebuilt a three-run cushion by pushing across two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole second base and advanced to third base on a groundout. He scored when Dustin Pedroia hit a rocket that third baseman Conor Gillaspie initially appeared to catch, but actually dropped. Gillaspie dived to try to tag out Ellsbury, failed and then delivered an errant throw to first base that allowed Ellsbury to score and Pedroia to reach second. David Ortiz knocked in Pedroia for Boston’s seventh run.
The Red Sox needed all seven runs, as Paul Konerko made it 7-5 with an RBI single in the fifth inning and Tyler Flowers pulled the White Sox to within a run with a solo homer off Craig Breslow in the eighth inning. At that point, there may have been a few New Englanders having flashbacks of some of the team’s crushing 2011 defeats, but Koji Uehara made sure that the Red Sox started September on a positive note by nailing down yet another perfect save.
It’s one game, and it was a grind. The Red Sox have 24 to go. And as we’ve seen in the past, that’s plenty of time to collapse, even with a sizable 5 1/2-game lead over the Rays in the AL East. But there’s still something different about this year’s Red Sox team, and it isn’t that they’re not aware of what has happened in the past. Perhaps it’s that they simply don’t care, and why should they?
“Other than 2004 and 2007, I don’t care what’s happened in the past here. This is a new team with a lot of fresh faces and I promise you not one guy here is thinking about what happened last year or 2011,” Jake Peavy said Saturday. “Nobody cares. This is a new bunch, new fresh faces and I don’t know anything about that and don’t want to know. This team is looking to do whatever we can.”
The elephant is still standing outside the Red Sox’ clubhouse. But it might not be long before he walks away.