Following an offseason of adjusting, the Boston Red Sox managed to bully their way into the ALCS and gave the Houston Astros a real run for their money. Limping through the months of August and most of September, the Sox secured their spot in the American League Wildcard against the New York Yankees on the final day with a win against the Washington Nationals.
The Red Sox and Yankees were tied at 90-72 records, but with the Red Sox having hold of the tiebreaker, the Wildcard game was set to take place at Fenway Park. Thanks in part to homers from Kyle Schwarber and a two-run shot from Xander Bogaerts, Alex Cora’s men took down Gerritt Cole and the Yankees 6-2. The game reignited the Red Sox fanbase, and the city of Boston had gone Sox crazy again, reminiscent of 2004. The victory set up an ALDS series with the defending American League Champions, the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays had won the American League East with the influence of manager Kevin Cash and a play of talents, such as Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena, but faced an uphill battle against their division rival.
Opening the series served as a wake-up call for Cora’s group, as they fell 5-0 at Tropicana Field in game one thanks to a home run by Nelson Cruz. The Sox responded the only way they had known how all year, with their bats. While they were down 5-2 at the end of the first inning, the team rallied and scored 12 runs over the next eight innings before evening up the series at 1-1 with momentum on their side. The next two games would see the Sox putting up six runs each time, defeating the Rays 6-4 and 6-5 in consecutive home games, putting the Green Monster to work and wreaking havoc on Tampa’s outfielders as the perfect response.
The victories reinvigorated an already raucous fanbase, as they were slated to play the Houston Astros. Travelling to Houston, the Red Sox’s hot bats were ready to cause trouble, with the bat of Kiké Hernandez swinging the hottest by far. Hernandez batted to a .450 clip in the series against the Rays to go along with 9 hits, 2 home runs and 6 RBIs when all was said and done.
Game one was a test from start to finish for the Red Sox, with the Astros inching out a one-run victory in an intense matchup of two foes. Carlos Correa made sure his presence was felt, tapping his wrist following his game-tying home run in the seventh inning in a manner so as to suggest, “It’s time,” sparking retaliation further down the line. The very next game, the Red Sox responded with their bats before they did their words. A 9-5 victory behind the bats of Devers, Hernandez and J.D. Martinez helped tie the series back up at one heading into game three.
The Red Sox bats woke up early and often this time around as well, with four different batters sending shots to the moon, including an overly emphatic grand slam off of the bat of first baseman Kyle Schwarber in the second inning, setting up the Sox to take a 2-1 series lead. In response to Correa’s tap, Red Sox hurler Eduardo Rodriguez mimicked the action heading off the mound before manager Alex Cora reprimanded the starter. Whether it’s superstition or not, the action led to a downward spiral within the series. The Red Sox would go on to fall to the Astros in each of the team’s next three games, culminating in a 5-0 loss in Game 6 on Friday night to seal the deal.
While the loss marks the end of the year for the Red Sox, the success achieved this season after practically gutting the franchise a little over a year ago is nothing short of impressive. This team’s camaraderie and overall willingness to win helps put this group in a contending position at any point over the next decade. The Astros will now go on to play the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.