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BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox may need to leapfrog three teams ahead of them and fend off the one team behind them in order to earn themselves a wild-card berth, and that may still be a long shot. Yet, the recent surges of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are making it seem at least that it may be possible.
Likely? Well, no, unless their offensive success can somehow inspire Josh Beckett and Jon Lester to pitch like Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Unless and until that happens, the 2012 Red Sox have exactly a zero percent chance of making the postseason in any capacity.
But possible? Even the most ardent Red Sox doubter would have to channel his inner Lloyd Christmas and proclaim there’s at least a chance.
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A glimpse into what could have been this season has been provided by Jacoby Ellsbury and Crawford the past two nights, when the duo atop the Sox’ lineup has combined to go 9-for-18 (.500) with five doubles, six RBIs and eight runs scored. While Ellsbury’s hot streak is a new one, Crawford’s been hot for a while, as he’s hitting .350 with four doubles, a triple and three homers in his last 10 games.
“They’re healthy and they get into the rhythm they can both be in, that’s when this team is going to score a lot of runs,” Gonzalez said of Crawford and Ellsbury after Monday night’s 9-2 win over the Rangers, owners of the best record in the American League. “They set the table, they set the tone and after that, it’s up to the middle of the order to drive them in. If they get on base, we can score some runs.”
Of Crawford’s three RBIs on Monday, two of them came from driving in Ellsbury, and the other came with Ellsbury on base after an RBI double of his own. It is likely the exact image that Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington and Co. envisioned when they backed up the Brinks truck for Crawford, but it’s the scenario that due to injuries and slumps has actually taken place far too rarely.
Alone, though, an imposing top of the lineup likely won’t be enough to carry the Red Sox through those periods when the starting pitching doesn’t come through. When combined with the months-long surge from Gonzalez, though, it can certainly give Boston a chance to win every night.
Gonzalez is hitting an American League-leading .400 since June 23, and Monday’s 3-for-5 night marked his seventh multi-hit performance in his last 10 games, a stretch in which he’s hitting .486 with a .548 on-base percentage and 11 RBIs. Whereas Gonzalez was the league’s best hitter in the first half of the 2011 season, he appears to be doing the same for the second half of this season.
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Still, there is the reality that the Red Sox’ offense has never been the problem. It has produced the second-most runs in the AL, and it has posted the second-highest team OPS in the league as well. They’re scoring just fine — it’s the pitching that has them at .500 on Aug. 7. It’s the pitching staff which ranks 10th out of 14 AL teams in ERA, 10th in quality starts and ninth in batting average against. It’s the rotation that has trotted out Beckett and Lester a combined 40 times and have lost 25 of those games, with the “co-aces” of the staff combining for a 4.99 ERA through four-plus months of the season.
And ultimately, it is the pitching that will determine whether this team actually makes a run or fades away down the stretch. But if the pitchers at the front of the rotation can do their best impressions of the guys at the top of the lineup, the former is actually a possibility.
You can’t exactly go and start making plans for October baseball at Fenway. But to echo the hope of a chipped-toothed Jim Carey, there is a chance. Try to contain your excitement.