HOUSTON — We keep waiting. But time is running out.
We watch, we scrutinize. When exactly are the Red Sox going to show they are not that 108-win team? That they are not historic? That they are not great?
For those scoring at home, the answer is not yet — and maybe not ever. They are now 113 victories into this 2018 season or six away from a championship. Take your pick.
These Red Sox soundly conquered a very good Yankees team in the regular season and then in the Division Series. They now lead — two games to one — an even better Astros club than the one that captured the World Series last year.
Yep, their ace has been ailing. They never have fully solved the link from starter to their closer. That closer, Craig Kimbrel, has not been good this postseason. Their catchers don’t hit. They mix and match at three of the four infield positions and it verges more toward desperation than inspiration.
This is not the formula for historic greatness. Yet, here are the Red Sox continuing their relentless march toward historic greatness. And, oh yeah, potentially their fourth title in 15 years.
Chants of “1918” and Curses of the Bambino and second-class citizenry to the Yankees feel like a long time ago now.
“We’re very confident,” said one of the second basemen, Brock Holt, after Boston beat Houston 8-2 in ALCS Game 3. “You don’t win 108 games by some fluke. We are a good team. When we get on a roll, we are tough team to beat.”
What does a roll look like? It is playing .667 ball during the regular season (108-54). Oh yeah, it is playing .667 ball in the postseason (4-2). Sure, it is a small sample size. But it is a small sample size against huge competition. As Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said, “Whoever wins or loses this time of year has a good team. We just beat a team [the Yankees] that set the major league home-run record this year.”
They have played two postseason series in which they lost home field in the opening two games, splitting to go 1-1. That made Game 3s on the road pivotal. They have won them by a combined 24-3. They are 3-0 on the road these playoffs. This is what historic teams do.
“We’ve been saying it all along, I know it sounds boring, but we prepare, we play and then we turn the page and they don’t get caught up in the moment,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “I do feel that in the ALDS, we grew up as a team going to Game 3. The sky was falling in Boston, it seems like all of a sudden we weren’t good. And they put a great game in Game 3 [winning 16-1]. Finished the job in Game 4 and coming to this environment, it’s not easy to win here. This is a place that they feed off the crowd. They’re very comfortable here offensively and to show up today and play the way we did, I’m very proud of them.”
Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up three hits and a run over 26 first-inning pitches. But this is not the Yankees version of Eovaldi. He had great velocity, but not great feel of his fastball, nor of his cutter that has been so vital to success this year. But he pitched well with his slider, curve and especially split to hold Houston to just three more hits (and two could have been scored errors) and one run over 66 more pitches and five innings. That kept the game tight for Steve Pearce to break a tie with a sixth-inning homer and Jackie Bradley Jr. to blow it open with an eighth-inning grand slam.
“I feel we are doing what we did in the regular season,” Eovaldi said. “Playing well.”
It is better than well. A 108-54 record exceeds well. So does 4-2 in the playoffs against the Yankees and Astros. It is .667 ball now for 168 games — and counting. These Red Sox have never felt great. They have raised wonder whether they would be a redux of the 116-win, die-in-the-playoffs 2001 Mariners.
There is still time for the Astros to knock off these Red Sox or someone from the NL to do so in the World Series. But it is getting late. We keep waiting. Time is running out on the season and for any other team to stop what is becoming more and more possible.
The 2018 Red Sox are historic.