Adrian Gonzalez hit a ground ball to first base late on a cold April 15 night. Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind picked it up, took it to first base himself and just like that, the Red Sox had fallen to 2-10 on the young season.
Flash forward two and a half months, and the Sox have rebounded in a big way, thanks in large part to a 16-9 month of June, to reclaim their status as one of the best teams in all of baseball.
Up and down — rather down and up after the season’s first two weeks — doesn’t even begin to describe things. The Sox suffered a disastrous opening week, losing their first six games, including a three-game sweep in Cleveland to a team that, at the time, was considered one baseball’s worst. Boston limped home to open its home slate where it picked up two wins over the Yankees before being swept again, this time by Toronto.
Since then, though, the Sox have gone 44-24 and are just a few games behind the Yankees in the AL East, owning one of baseball’s best records. They enter their schedule’s halfway point on Friday, and if the playoffs were to open on Friday, the Sox would somehow be in.
Perhaps the bounce-back act has been made even more impressive by the fact that the Sox have battled injuries. Prized free-agent pick Carl Crawford had a terrible start, but was definitely coming around until he injured his hamstring recently. Daisuke Matsuzaka is done for the season. So is Rich Hill. Clay Buchholz is currently on the DL. John Lackey has spent time on the DL. Josh Beckett missed almost two weeks with the flu.
They’ve been beaten up on and off the field, and yet, the Red Sox still somehow find themselves among baseball’s elite. No doubt, much of that has been helped along by the play of Gonzalez. Finally acquired in the offseason, the first baseman has been everything he was expected to be and so much more. We’re almost at the All-Star break and talk of the Triple Crown for him is only now subsiding.
On the mound, the Red Sox have gotten some incredible performances from Beckett. He looks like a different pitcher than the one Sox fans saw in 2010, when injuries plagued him and even when was healthy, he was very inconsistent. Jon Lester continues his ascent into “acedom,” as evidenced by his skid-snapping start in Philadelphia on Thursday. Somewhat lost in the shuffle, too, has been the efforts of closer Jonathan Papelbon, who has been as lights out as he’s been in sometime on the back end.
The Sox will get their midterm exam on Friday night when they travel to Houston to take on the lowly Astros. With how up and down the 2011 season has been so far, it’s fair to expect anything.
Thursday, June 30: How many Red Sox players will make the AL All-Star team this year?