BOSTON — Winners of 22 of their last 27, the Red Sox are defying the laws of baseball.
There are supposed to be ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys in the course of a 162-game season. Genuine ruts, as opposed to minor hurdles.
“We’re just running through a little bit of a stretch that we got to fight our way of,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters after the Sox won 4-1 on Saturday afternoon.
The Red Sox wouldn't know what that's like.
The premise here, as the Sox sit on the cusp of a four-game sweep of the Yankees, is not your mother’s sense of Boston fatalism. Nothing related to the outdated idea that Sox teams are bound to stumble.
Nor is the thought that the Sox are somehow a weaker team than you’ve seen. Who at this point in the year could challenge their all-around competence (minor inflation, like a 1.65 ERA from their starters since the All-Star Break, aside)? No, this column is not made from tomato cans.
The point is about the nature of baseball. Yanks general manager Brian Cashman’s little dig prior to this series, when he suggested no other teams have given the Sox a challenge, actually has a shred of truth in it.
Even good teams are supposed to lose sometimes.
Now the Yanks, whom Cashman implied were the only ones who could rough up the Sox, are looking pretty feeble these days too.
The Sox are outrageously good. The list of statistics the Sox media relations staff updates on a daily basis to show their historical excellence is long. Here’s one: the Sox are just the fifth team in the Expansion Era, from 1961 on, to win as many as 78 of their first 112 games.
What is hard to fathom is how the Sox just don’t run into some consecutive down nights. A bad week, even. Because, as with a few other things in life, everyone does occasionally.
“Look there’s no question they’ve established themselves right now as the best team in this league,” Boone said. “That’s indicative of their record and how consistent they’ve been.
“That said, I think if you walk thorough our room out there, to a man, we know we can absolutely play with them. We know when we’re at our best, we can beat them. We acknowledge who they are right now, and there’s no denying the season they’re having.”
The use of the words "right now" by Boone is interesting. It suggests that he wonders, too, if it will change.
Nothing yet has stung long. The credit for such consistency goes in every direction. A bushel goes to manager Alex Cora, but the talent is first and foremost, and Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and his group assembled it.
So as the Sox roll into August and look to crush the Yankees in Sunday night’s final meeting between the teams until September, there’s a lingering question. Will the other shoe really never drop? Forget a tailspin, or a collapse or any of the histrionics. We're talking about a regular, human slump.
Maybe at some point the Sox will lose four games in a row, because that’s what baseball teams do. The most they've lost consecutively is three, and that was in April. Maybe at some point, when Craig Kimbrel’s on the brink of blowing a game, the Sox actually suffer for it.
There is precedent for this kind of play, even though the Sox haven’t had a 100-win team since 1946. Occasionally, there are teams that come along and just blow through a regular season. The 2001 Mariners and the 1998 Yankees are the best recent examples, with 116 and 114 wins. The Sox, potentially, could finish the year this way, walking on water from start to finish in the regular season.
“Keep focus,” Giancarlo Stanton told reporters when asked what the Yanks need to do now. “Understand it’s just a bad stretch.”
The Sox really don’t. And maybe they won't.