Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine's words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox' season and playoff hopes are on life support. No one is disputing that at this point.
The math is starting to indicate the ever-decreasing odds that Boston can make a run, but is there any reason for optimism, any reason for hope that the Sox can avoid missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season? Can the team avoid another offseason of searching for answers?
Well, that depends who you ask. The Fenway Faithful don't seem to be carrying the faith — excuse the bad pun — anymore, chalking up the 2012 campaign to the old Brooklyn Dodgers' motto: Wait 'til next year. However, those in the locker room seem to feel differently. And why shouldn't they? This is a heralded organization with expectations of winning, and proud players who take their work seriously.
"We still have it. We've got it," said Sox manager Bobby Valentine after Saturday's 4-1 win over the rival New York Yankees. "We just haven't used it as often. We've saved it up."
The question is, saved what up? The bullpen has far out-performed expectations in 2012, especially after presumed-closer Andrew Bailey went down with a preseason thumb injury which required surgery. The offense has been consistently among the most productive in the American League.
It's really only the pitching staff that hasn't carried its weight, with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett (deservedly) taking much of the blame for the unit's collective underachievement. Well, perhaps Valentine was referring to Lester with his quote, as after a season's worth of struggles, the left-hander has now put together back-to-back starts with a stat line deserving of an ace.
Could Valentine be referring to Beckett; he who has been booed off the mound in three consecutive starts? It could be, but Beckett is going to have to get right in a hurry, as he starts on Sunday evening and carries a 7.78 ERA since the beginning of July. Plus, he will be trying to recapture his old Yankee-killing form in one of the toughest environments for pitchers throughout Major League Baseball.
The problem for the Red Sox is that, outside of the reemergence of Lester, there really isn't a whole lot of reason to put faith in a team that has seemed to take two steps forward followed by two steps backward throughout the season.
"I think a lot of players I talk to really want to believe," said Valentine. "We'll see."
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, hope, faith and reality are very different things, and the team better have better answers than veritable pixie dust if it wants to make a last-ditch miracle run. And make no mistake, it would have to be an incredible run akin to the August 2002 Oakland A's — or the July 2012 Oakland A's, for that matter — for the Sox to have any outside chance.
So, while those in the clubhouse keep the faith, the Fenway Faithful continue to lose it fast. Valentine is sure right about one thing, however. We'll all see how this plays out.
You're up, Beckett.