To start, my apologies to the three people that glance at this blog every once in a while. I was in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for a week and prior to that I was either too busy or just too damn lazy. No more of that. I plan on writing at least four or five times a week from here on out.
Watching Jonathan Papelbon pound Bud Lights and dance around Fenway Park has become a sight of both pure beauty and entertainment for Sox fans every where and it doesn't seem like we'll be missing his yearly performance anytime soon.
The Sox clinched a playoff berth tonight in impressive fashion. A 5-4 win over a team in the Indians that was only two games over .500 prior to the game doesn't seem all that spectacular on the surface. However, I think the Sox have gotten away from what had made them a successful team all season the past couple weeks. The team has lacked timely hitting and consistent performances from Papelbon. A home run from Kevin Youkilis early in the game and a big RBI single from Jason Bay proved to be all the Sox bullpen needed. The Sox' playoff hopes could hinge on Bay's production in October and thus far he has been up to the task of playing important games late in the season.
Papelbon's stats read 40-45 in save chances coming into the game but to anyone who watches the Sox with any regularity will tell you he hasn't been himself of late. His saves have been sloppy and he blew what may have been the game that cost the Sox the division a few weeks ago when he gave up the bomb to Dan Johnson right after Bay's home run to put Boston in the lead in the bottom of the eighth. Tonight Papelbon used his 95-97 mph fastball with confidence instead of messing around with his slider or curve ball. The 1-2-3 inning was great but it was the way he did that caught my attention. He obviously never lacks confidence but tonight I think he finally regained confidence in his fastball.
The Sox are back to October for the fifth time in six years. Sustained success was Theo Epstein's plan when he took over back in 2002 and the team's performance speaks for itself. The Sox have adopted the theme of "We're the Champs and until you knock us off, we're not going anywhere." The Yankees of the late '90s always had that state of mind and that's where I feel this team is at.
Three quality starting pitchers. A scorching bullpen. Pedroia-Ortiz-Youkilis-Bay. Bring on the playoffs.