September. The month when the standings finally matter, the month when wildcards are dealt and magic numbers are no longer illusory.
Truck day, pitchers and catchers reporting and split squad games in the Floridian sunshine are all distant memories, replaced by more recent recollections of the season at hand. The walk off wins, pinch hit home runs and a center fielder forgetting the number of outs…
The Red Sox entered September as they have done many times before, in contention to win the American League East. It can be easy to forget that Boston earn their living in the division regarded as the toughest in all of baseball. With their readily available funds and the clout of previous winning seasons, it can be effortless to expect them to be playing baseball when the majority of teams have broken ranks for their winter break.
However, coming into this season most of us had a fresh perspective, the last place finish in 2012 forcing recalibrated expectations as the 2013 season loomed. Now, with 23 games left to play this Red Sox team has elevated expectation levels reminiscent to where they were in September 2011.
A final month which should serve as a cautionary tale for all teams with dreams of appearing in the Fall Classic. A nine game lead in the wildcard race erased in just 24 games, all culminating in a numbing ninth inning defeat on the season’s final day. The hangover from which, we’ve learned, can last far beyond a single month.