Well, calling them ‘good’ is a stretch, and that is only said tongue-in-cheek, but there can be a silver lining to all the doctor visits and DL stints. By bringing in hungry replacements with something to prove and mixing them with driven veterans who might have been looking for a spark, the Sox, in the words of manager Terry Francona, found their personality, their identity.
Call it the Tom Brady Effect. An unknown steps into the fray and unexpectedly rallies the troops. In the case of the Red Sox, it’s been several unknowns.
Although the hits keep on coming for Boston, with three more injuries to key players over the weekend, so do the gutty wins and a terrific vibe in the clubhouse, even if some players are spending more time being taped up than playing cards.
On the other hand, when you’re plodding along with the same guys day in and day out, and that everyday crew begins to struggle as one, it can get awkward, or even violent.
Maybe the Tampa Bay Rays could use a few injuries.
It was April 19 when the Rays left Fenway Park with four straight wins in their pocket and looking like they might run and hide in the American League East. They were already six games ahead of the Sox, who had a roster largely intact and healthy at the time.
It all turned around when the injuries came. For Boston, that is.
In a 37-game span that has seen the Sox disable Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury (for the second time), Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mike Lowell and Jeremy Hermida and potentially lose Victor Martinez and Clay Buchholz for a period of time, they’ve gone 26-11.
In the same stretch, while putting only shortstop Jason Bartlett and part-time outfielder Gabe Kapler — two guys hitting a combined .224 with two home runs — on the DL, the Rays have gone 16-20, including a three-game sweep at home against the Sox, who played most of the series with Martinez (bruised toe suffered in the opener) and Ellsbury (broken rib suffered a few days earlier) injured but active.
That adds up to a 9 1/2-game swing between the two teams, a shift that has altered the landscape of a division some felt was a two-team race with Boston on the outside looking in.
On Tuesday, Tampa Bay enters Fenway again, largely healthy in terms of bodies, but as unfit as they’ve looked all year in terms of team chemistry, confidence and all the other factors the Sox have regained amid trips to the ward.
The Rays have been unable to turn to a 31-year-old outfielder with a brand new baby girl and a growing desire to finally stick with a club after stints in seven different organizations (Darnell McDonald), a 27-year-old independent league cast-off with a penchant for the dramatic (Daniel Nava), or a 34-year-old journeyman reliever who had spent the last two years in Japan (Scott Atchison).
All three, and others, have found common success by buying into an organizational mindset that doesn’t allow for moping.
“We’re still winning and that’s what we’re set up to do,” Francona said Sunday night.
That didn’t appear to be the case over two months ago, when the Rays sweep on Patriots Day weekend was seen as the death knell for the Red Sox, prematurely written off by many.
Their pitching was poor, their offense non-existent and their defense nothing like it was advertised.
Nothing a few breaks, strains and sprains can’t fix.