This Week in Boston Baseballing, Sept. 13 – 19

The Red Sox swept the Yankees in impressive fashion at Fenway Park over the weekend. Their six wins in seven games against New York this month have helped to nudge the Yankees’ playoff hopes on to last rites. Boston wrapped up a three-game series against the visiting Orioles last night by winning 3-1 behind the strength of a John Lackey complete game two-hitter.

The Sox suffered two frustrating late-innings losses to Baltimore at home on Tuesday and Wednesday. On the bright side, the team hasn’t lost a game by more than three runs in more than a month (August 16, a 10-3 loss to the Yankees). When the team scores four runs or more, it is just about unstoppable. The Red Sox haven’t lost a game in which they have scored more than four runs since August 9 (a 9-6 loss in Kansas City).

Boston Clinches A 163rd Game …
The Red Sox secured a spot in the MLB postseason with the win on Thursday night. However, nine other teams will enjoy that privilege during the next 10 days. The real prize will come with Boston’s next win and/or the next Tampa Bay loss as the team’s magic number to clinch the AL East now stands at one.

… Now A World Series Favorite
The Detroit Tigers are projected to win the World Series more often than Boston, according to systems such as Cool Standings and Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds. However, on a public level, the action seems to be swaying toward Boston as the prohibitive favorite to come out of the American League. The Red Sox were listed at 2/1 on Bovada as of this morning.

The narrative structure is now pretty well solidified heading into October. A season that began with the team looking middling at best, a team many figured would be lucky to have a record above .500, is going to win 95-98 games and may have had one of the best regular seasons in two generations. But expectations will continuously be revised during the postseason as the team advances, if the team advances.

The 2013 Red Sox season has already been a sparkling success. But if Boston gets bounced in the playoffs, will the feeling of satisfaction amongst the overwhelming bulk of the fanbase be reflected in the post mortems written by columnists?

1-2-3 Koji Gives Up A Run
Koji Uehara’s perfect streak ended at 37 batters on Tuesday night, when Baltimore scratched a run off the closer in its 3-2 victory at Fenway Park. As Jonah Keri wrote Wednesday, Koji’s streak was the best run by a closer since 1960 in terms of opponents’ OPS allowed. Uehara allowed a combined on-base percentage and slugging percentage of .214. The next lowest number was .337 by Robb Nen in 2000.

Valencia triple over Victorino

Shane Victorino deviated just enough from the optimal path to this ball hit by Danny Valencia that it landed over his head for a leadoff triple in the Orioles’ ninth.

Shane Victorino’s Thumb Hurts
Due to a jammed thumb, Victorino was wearing what looked to be multiple pieces of padding/gloving on his right thumb during his final at-bat on Wednesday night. He gutted his way through it and wound up getting jammed inside on the final pitch, but his pop-up fell safely in no-man’s land in left-center field. Shane has been battling nagging pains all year and it wouldn’t be surprising if he gets a few games off. And there could be added upside to this thumb thing if it keeps Victorino from attempting to bunt 15 times during each playoff game.

When Supposedly “Grown Men” Deploy The Chemistry Argument
On Monday, WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan brought in NBC Sports blogger Craig Calcaterra to discuss to what extent team chemistry has contributed to Boston’s success this season. Sidekick Kirk Minihane and Calcaterra advocated tempering the impact things like some players saying “Hey, let’s all grow beards” actually has on winning professional baseball games. The subtraction of some less popular minorities like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and the addition of whiter-hued guys like Mike Napoli and Gomes undoubtedly had something to do with their predictable stance.

Calcaterra summed up his experience:

At one point they said that Adrian Gonzalez is magically no longer a team cancer because he’s back in California and players from California are happier in California. I pointed out that Jonny Gomes was from California but that didn’t go over too well because, you know, facts. I didn’t get a chance to mention that Gomes’ “wins everywhere he plays” only works when you cut out the bulk of his career spent in Tampa Bay with the Devil Rays.

But hey, just because they call it talk radio doesn’t mean everyone gets to talk. There are some folks who, when they invite someone on who doesn’t agree with their nonsense, change it to “only I talk” radio.

The chemistry argument is a convenient one for posers like John Dennis and Gerry Callahan, who have perfected the dumb art of talking about sports for a living rather than actually watching games and making analytical sense of the sport. They are paid to establish circuitous, pointless arguments that can be constantly revised by either side based on even the slightest bit of recent, anecdotal evidence. Sports talk radio is verbal bukkake, and Dennis and Callahan always seem to have their dicks aimed and ready.

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