BOSTON - The air is more crisp now and it's nearly dark already when the first pitch is thrown each night. The out-of-town scores are checked more regularly and every game seems to take on additional importance.
It is this time of year that the Red Sox have chosen to play their best baseball of the season.
That may not be reflected in the standings, where the American League East looks like the Southeast Expressway at the start of a holiday weekend, with teams caught in traffic. The Sox are not running away with anything - their lead is a mere two games -- but they are, undeniably, hitting their stride.
By any measure -- the vastly-improved starting pitching; the explosiveness of the offense; even the late-coalescing bullpen -- the Red Sox are now at their best when it means the most.
"It's hard to argue that we aren't,'' agreed manager John Farrell after the Red Sox beat up the Baltimore Orioles, 12-2. "We're clicking in a number of ways, and this time of the year, it's happening at the right time.''
Maybe a week or so ago, the argument could be made that the Sox were merely beating up bad competition by flattening the A's and Padres.
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But more recently, the Red Sox have had to contend with the two teams closest to them in the standings -- the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays -- and won three-of-four. In all three wins, the Red Sox posted double-figures in runs scored.
It was more of the same Monday night, when the Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning, then proceeded to add at least one run for every one of the next six innings.
Still, as Farrell noted, this recent stretch has been primarily the result of a vastly improved starting rotation.
When Clay Buchholz stumbled Sunday, it marked the first time since the end of the last homestand, last month, in which the Sox didn't get a quality start.
"To me, it comes back to the rotation,'' said Farrell. "The consistency of those guys going out and keeping games under control -- whether or not we score a high number of runs or not, we're in almost every ballgame.''
There are other signs, too. The offense has been lethal of late, with double-figures in runs scored five times in the last 10. And when they're not bludgeoning teams into submission -- three homers were among the 16 hits in Monday's win -- they're doing the proverbial little things.
Outfielder Mookie Betts, for instance, stole a run in the first inning when he noticed left fielder Steve Pearce hesitating in getting the ball back into the infield. It was the second time in the last week that Betts had taken 90 extra feet in response to an outfield's short attention span.
When a team is excelling at every aspect of the game -- starting pitching, offense, baserunning and the bullpen - that's a tough combination to beat.
Just under three weeks remain until the post-season, and the Red Sox are playing like they can't wait.