Statistics don’t always tell the story
Are you f*cking kidding me?!
Those were the first words out of my mouth (sans the asterisk) as soon as I walked in the front door last night. I had gotten home from work just in time to see St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina reach second safely on a throwing error committed by Boston Red Sox third baseman Xander Bogaerts and then move to third on a wild pitch by John Lackey in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Not again, I thought, please, not again.
Of course, my dear husband the Red Sox fan sarcastically thanked me for jinxing his team. Truthfully, I was ready to turn around and go right back to work if that’s what it took for them to win Game 4 of the World Series.
Thankfully, Boston ended up winning 4-2 – the same score it was when I got home – bringing the World Series to another tie, this time at 2-all. Game 5 will be played tonight in St. Louis before the Series goes back to Boston on Wednesday.
The Red Sox bats have been craptastic for much of the postseason, but luckily for them, their opponents aren’t faring much better with the three teams they’ve faced combining for a .240 average. Statistics don’t lie, but they don’t tell the entire story, either. Boston’s current overall batting average is a paltry .223 in 14 postseason games, going from a decent .286 in the division series against the Tampa Bay Rays to plummet to .202 in the American League Championship Series with the Detroit Tigers before dropping even further to an awful .189 to the Cardinals’ .235 in the World Series.
However, stats and all that other mumbo jumbo aside, and just when you think there’s no hope in hell of them mounting a comeback of any kind, the Red Sox find a way to win. And that is the mark of a great team.
I asked my husband the other day which one was his favorite Boston team that made it to the World Series dating back to 2004.
Was it the 2004 team famous for coming back from a 3-0 deficit to the hated New York Yankees in the ALCS to win 4-3 en route to sweeping the Cardinals 4-0 in the World Series?
Or perhaps the 2007 club that was down 3-1 against the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS after losing games 2, 3 and 4 before roaring back to outscore its opponent 30-5 in the final three contests for another 4-3 win, and then quickly dispatching the Colorado Rockies 4-0 in the World Series?
Maybe this year’s group that looks more like a bunch of outlaw bikers you might find at a nearby watering hole rather than baseball players, sporting no one with real superstar status except possibly designated hitter David “Big Papi” Ortiz, now 38 and in the twilight of his career, who came back from a season-ending injury in 2012 to finish the regular season with 30 home runs, 103 runs batted in and a .309 batting average?
His answer was surprising.
I’d have guessed he’d pick the 2004 crew that reversed the “Curse of the Bambino.” The “curse” supposedly was the reason why the Red Sox suffered an 86-year drought dating back to their last championship in 1918 when, two years later, they sold the legendary Babe Ruth to the – UGH – Yankees. Up until that point, they had won five World Series titles between 1903-18. Personally, I don’t buy into any of that “curse” garbage. But, hey, that’s just me.
In any case, my husband responded to the question with no hesitation whatsoever: The 2013 gang.
Why, I inquired? Because they’re down-to-earth guys, he said, and there really are no big-name talents with even bigger egos stifling Boston management’s mission to get back to an unselfish, “clubhouse” style of play where everyone contributes when called upon this season. They have more character, more moxie, more team spirit, and they’re just plain GENUINE. There are no signs of jealousy when someone is asked to sit out from one day to the next so another can fill a needed role for the team at any given time. They accept their roles such as they are, cheer for one another and build each other up instead of tearing one another down.
Sure, their pitching has been suspect and their bats quiet of late. And yet, they always seem to whittle their way back into a game when it seems as if all hope is lost.
Twice against Detroit in the ALCS, the Red Sox hit grand slams to tie or outright win games.
You’d expect that Big Papi would be the one of those people, and you’d be right. His shot went just over the wall of the bullpen at Fenway Park with Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter valiantly but unsuccessfully diving headfirst after it to tie Game 2 at 5-all in the bottom of the eighth inning. Boston left fielder Jonny Gomes scored the winning run in the ninth on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia single after starting off the inning with an infield single himself, advancing to second on a throwing error that ended up in the Red Sox dugout during the same play and then to third on a wild pitch before clinching the 6-5 victory.
Then, in the decisive Game 6 that sent Boston to the World Series, it was Mr. Hit By Pitch himself, Shane Victorino, who was an unlikely hero that night. Victorino, who has been hit by a whopping seven pitches so far this postseason, launched a grand slam to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning to push the Red Sox past Detroit 5-2. It was one of only three hits he had for the entire ALCS.
Last night, it was Gomes who provided the heroics in the 4-2 win. Less than two hours before the first pitch, he was scribbled into the lineup when fellow outfielder Victorino was scratched because of a back ailment. A fiery dugout speech from Big Papi smack-dab in the middle of the game sparked a three-run homer by Gomes in the top of the sixth that put the Red Sox up 4-1. He had gone 0-for-9 in the Series up until that point. Prior to that, it was a sacrifice fly by teammate Stephen Drew – whose lone hit in the Fall Classic was a blundering pop-up infield single that landed between lollygagging Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright and Molina in Boston’s commanding 8-1 win in Game 1 – that tied it 1-all in the fifth.
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara later ended the game with an exclamation point by picking off pinch runner Kolten Wong at first. It wasn’t nearly as exciting a finish as Game 3, in which St. Louis’ Allen Craig was ruled safe at home despite being tagged out by Saltalamacchia due to a defensive obstruction ruling against Boston’s Will Middlebrooks at third. Craig tripped over Middlebrooks, who was on the ground with his legs flailing in a bid to see where the ball went after a throwing error, got up and limped for home, where the Cardinals were awarded the stumble-off 5-4 win.
You can talk stats until you’re blue in the face, but these Red Sox are more than a bunch of numbers you crunch together. They’re a cast of supporting – no, supportive – players who know their roles, know how important they are to their team, know just how valuable they are to each other.
It’s really too bad you can’t keep stats of intangibles like courage, determination, selflessness. They’d surely top the list. I know I’d take my chances on those qualities over numbers every time. In fact, I always have.