One of the unmistakable traits of a championship season is the signature moments and events that take place along the way. With the Red Sox showing peak form late in the season to secure their first American League East title and postseason berth since 2013, the most significant developments all
One of the unmistakable traits of a championship season is the signature moments and events that take place along the way. With the Red Sox showing peak form late in the season to secure their first American League East title and postseason berth since 2013, the most significant developments all took place after the All-Star break.
With Game 1 of the American League Division Series vs. the Indians set for Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS, here is a look back at what got this team to the point of being back on the big stage in October.
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July 31: Pedroia hits Street
The Red Sox had lost seven of their past nine with the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline looming. At that point, they were lacking the ability to come back late in games. This all changed on a Sunday afternoon in Anaheim. Down two runs with two outs in the ninth against tough Angels closer Huston Street, Dustin Pedroia unloaded for a three-run shot over the wall in left, which set off a wave of emotion in Boston's dugout. Xander Bogaerts made it back-to-back homers with a towering shot to center. The Red Sox had one of their biggest wins of the season by a score of 5-3.
Aug. 2: There's a new kid in town
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski pushed hard to get a left-handed hitter to play left field prior to the Trade Deadline, most notably Carlos Beltrán. But when Beltran wound up in Texas, Dombrowski went to the farm and called up highly touted prospect Andrew Benintendi, who had been drafted out of the University of Arkansas just 14 months earlier. The 22-year-old rocketed through the farm system, going straight from Double-A Portland to the Red Sox, and he looked comfortable from the day he arrived in Seattle. Benintendi went 2-for-3 in his first Major League start on Aug. 3. He made arguably the best catch of the season for Boston on Aug. 22, snatching a potential home run by Steven Souza Jr. from the short wall in left field at Tropicana Field.
Aug. 10: Farrell's lineup switch
As much as manager John Farrell enjoyed having the dynamic Mookie Betts in the leadoff spot, it got to the point where some of his power was being wasted. In the middle of a three-game series against the Yankees, Farrell made Pedroia his leadoff man and moved Betts to the three-hole. Eventually, Betts would settle in at cleanup. Up top, Pedroia went on one of the most prolonged tears of his career. Betts added to his AL Most Valuable Player Award candidacy by continuing to drill the baseball to the gaps and over the wall.
Sept. 7: The return of Koji
The Red Sox feared they had lost Koji Uehara for the season when he walked off the Fenway Park mound on July 19 with a right pectoral strain. Without the 41-year-old, Boston struggled mightily to form a bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel. To Uehara's credit, he worked tirelessly in his rehab and got back to the mound on Sept. 7 in San Diego. The plan was to ease Uehara back in with some low-leverage situations. But even as he was building back arm strength in his return, he dominated from the outset. Within a few days, Uehara was once again pitching in the eighth inning with a one-run lead. In Uehara's first nine appearances off the disabled list, he allowed no runs and five hits over nine innings, walking none and striking out 11. Boston's bullpen went from a weakness to a unit that led the Majors in ERA for nearly all of September.
Sept. 15: Hanley's rocket sinks Yankees
The Yankees came to town for the start of a four-game series, surprisingly still in the thick of contention for a postseason berth after selling at the Deadline and beginning their youth movement. And it seemed they were going to defeat the Red Sox in the first game, backed by a strong pitching performance by Masahiro Tanaka. Down 5-1 in the eighth, David Ortiz hit a solo shot to right that gave him more career home runs than Mickey Mantle. Then the Sox rallied in the ninth, slicing the lead to a run by the time Hanley Ramirez stepped in against Dellin Betances, and he smashed a 99-mph heater over the wall in center for a three-run walk-off shot. After that victory, the Red Sox had a different swagger about them. That win was the first of 11 in a row, as Boston surged to the division title after being locked in a tight race all season.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002.