EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 9, 2013

Do you believe yet?

Sox still the best team in baseball

Bill Burt
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Do you believe, yet?

That old fashioned abstract quality from Boston Red Sox teams' past — doubt! — had crept in the discussions around the water coolers again. All of sudden the Tampa Bay Rays, albeit a gritty bunch, won a single game and New England immediately thought the very worst.

The 2013 Manager of the Year, John Farrell, is a bum and the Rays pitching staff is a rendition of the 2004 Red Sox (Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield).

Neither is true. What is true is the Red Sox have been the best team in baseball for nearly three months and they proved that again this past week, particularly last night.

Boston is headed to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2008. The Sox won a 3-1 nail-biter over the Tampa Bay Rays last night at Tropicana Field in Game 4. The series went to Boston, 3-1.

The Red Sox finished with six hits, all singles. But they also finished with eight walks and two hit batsmen.

In baseball, we know that there is more to the game than a line score. There was a great at-bat by rookie Xander Bogaerts, which led to him scoring the tying run on a wild pitch. There was Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, with the bases-loaded (two walks and a hit batsman), which gave closer Koji Uehara a second run, which really felt like an extra six runs.

We act surprised, but we shouldn't be. This "beard" thing represents this kind of baseball ... whatever it takes.

If you weren't 100 percent all-in before last night, you'd better be now.

The other teams in the American League, Detroit and Oakland, were flying across the country while the Red Sox were slipping past the Rays.

The Red Sox return home to Boston where they receive another three days off, resting every boo boo, and setting up the next series, which starts at Fenway Park on Saturday, perfectly.

The numbers continue to stack up in the Red Sox favor.

They had 36 come-from-behind wins during the regular season and two in the ALDS. They also had 11 walkoff wins this year.

You want consistency? Boston longest losing streak all year was just three games.

Red Sox were tied with Rays for first in AL East on Aug. 24 before running away with the division from there.

How about this offense? When scoring five or more runs in a game this season, the Red Sox were 75-11.

The Sox were 78-5 when leading after seven innings.

At some point ... like, now! ... this team will get exactly what they deserve, which is applause.

Email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.