Getting giddy about prospects
They had seemingly landed in a semi-perfect place.
The Bruins? Done. The Celtics? Eliminated. The Patriots? Sitting in a nowhere-man's existence when it came to both the calendar and expectations.
This was the Red Sox' chance to reel in all those who were more focused on the Fenway Park concert series than whatever baseball had been played the last two months. And as those folks looked to the Boston sports landscape sky, it sure appeared as though the clouds were parting in favor of Alex Cora's crew.
The Sox certainly hadn't defined themselves as any sort of juggernaut, but there were enough signs to suggest they were a team which was worth a second glance. They had proven resilient. The record was over .500, continuing some semblance of Wild Card optimism. And it sure seemed as though things were only going to get better.
Chris Sale had become an ace once again. James Paxton has reemerged as a legitimate top of the rotation option. Adam Duvall's return was on the horizon. Masa Yoshida had proven himself as a legitimate major league hitter. Players like Enmanuel Valdez, Raimel Tapia, Rob Refsnyder, Connor Wong and Pablo Reyes were exceeding expectations. Alex Verdugo was entering into the All-Star conversation. The bullpen had the kind of certainty they were starving for a year before. And there was always going to be Rafael Devers to save the day.
And get this: On the first day the Red Sox got free and clear of all that Celtics excitement, they get to play the Reds, a team certainly perceived as one living in the lower tier of the MLB Power Rankings.
But as Wednesday turned into Thursday, all that momentum has run into a wall at a most inopportune time.
After Wednesday night's 5-4 loss to the 26-29 Reds, the Red Sox have not only fallen back into last-place in the American League East, but sit four games out of the third Wild Card spot (with three teams - Toronto, the Angels, and Seattle sitting in front of them).
And to make matters worse, the series finale has the Red Sox needing to figure out how to solve one of the most electric young pitchers in the game, Cincy's Hunter Greene. And after that? Oh, yeah. In comes the Rays for four games.
This wasn't part of the plan.
The Red Sox were supposed to be riding the wave of a successful series against the Reds on the way to having a chance at not becoming yet another Rays victim. In case you haven't paid attention, Tampa Bay has made a habit of digging holes for their opponents. It was a reality the Red Sox experienced while hitting their low-point via a Rays four-game sweep at Tropicana Field.
The Red Sox need people to believe, now more than ever.
The excitement has to stretch beyond Marcelo Mayer being promoted to Double-A, Duvall taking swings with the Worcester Red Sox, or the idea that Trevor Story will solve what might ail the Red Sox at shortstop.
In this results business, the Red Sox need results.
Fortunately there is a path to regain the good vibes last found with those two straight wins in Phoenix. Much like the first game of Arizona series - on the heels of a four-game losing streak - the Red Sox were able to reap the rewards of uncovering an actual ace in Sale. The guy who stops losing streaks and changes conversations.
It turns out, Sale is the right guy at the right time, once again.
The lefty can get the train back on the tracks in front of a Fenway crowd that is seemingly more flush with students taking advantage of $9 tickets than those desperate to be part of a pennant push. And if he does, the Red Sox will be then presented with the ultimate opportunity for punctuation - success against the best team in baseball.
The floor is yours, Red Sox. Now what are you going to do with it?