BOSTON — The minutiae starts to fade now. Steal a few wins, rattle off a gorgeous run when people didn’t expect you to — what should or shouldn’t happen doesn’t matter.
Are the Sox really this good? At a certain point, it’s irrelevant how many wins were lucky (Friday’s, arguably), or against bad teams (the White Sox), or anything else. Those victories are cinderblocks in the standings that the Yankees will find increasingly difficult to budge.
There’s simply no challenging the value of banked wins, no eliminating them.
Look, you didn’t need Friday night’s 9-6 Red Sox win over the Yankees to realize the Sox are resilient. All of August has been a coming out party: for a pitching staff that’s making due without David Price, for an offense liberated by a 20-year-old third baseman who homered again Friday, Rafael Devers, as the team adapts smoothly to the absence of Dustin Pedroia.
“We miss them,” Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday night. “There’s no question we miss those two guys, and [are] really looking forward to their return. But it speaks volume to the team we have, the depth and talent that’s here.
“What Raffy has done by coming up, and Eduardo [Nunez’s] arrival here at the time when Pedey goes down, they’ve been instrumental in the way we’ve played. I don’t know if you want to call it the next-man-up mentality, but we have not skipped a beat and guys are beginning to flourish and shouldering a greater burden.”
But what, beyond this sense of resiliency, have you learned since the trade deadline? What can you tell about the Sox’ future from watching them reach a season-high 19 games over .500?
That discussion is more complicated. The Sox are one of the best anywhere, just as they were projected to be entering the year — albeit with some different personnel fulfilling those predictions. They’re just the second AL team to reach 70 wins.
Yet, it’s fair to wonder how many times a reliever like Tommy Kahnle — one of the Yankees’ significant trade additions — will let Mitch Moreland come through with a go-ahead hit on an 0-2 count in the seventh inning.
It’s fair to wonder how many times Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly can fall into trouble without swing-and-miss stuff and be bailed out. Or how many times Farrell can keep holding back guys like Addison Reed, as the skipper did on Friday, until he really has no other choice — and be let off the hook for those choices.
The Red Sox are homer-happy right now, with multiple long balls for the 9th time in 14 games. Those home runs could be long overdue, or it could be a cluster and an aberration.
Again, those questions start to diminish in importance. Because in the same way we talk about time running out for Price’s return from injury, time also starts to run out for other teams.
There’s a cushion of five games in the AL East going into Saturday’s middle game of three with the Yankees, one of just six remaining head-to-head match-ups between the Sox and Yanks this season. The last time the Sox and Yankees were playing each other as the top two teams in the division this late in the year was 2011, a reminder of how quickly leads can dissipate.
This isn’t a suggestion the Sox should be foolhardy, or have anything wrapped up. It’s a reminder that whether you believe Eduardo Nunez will keep up his .361 average down the stretch, or whether you find anything dubious about some of these Sox wins — they’re still in the bank, appreciating in value from now until October.