The Red Sox were losing, 7-1, to the Braves on Wednesday -- with a lot of their best players on the bench -- on a getaway day before they would fly home to Boston to get ready for a homestand that would begin with a three-game series against the Astros.
The Red Sox were losing, 7-1, to the Braves on Wednesday -- with a lot of their best players on the bench -- on a getaway day before they would fly home to Boston to get ready for a homestand that would begin with a three-game series against the Astros. Yes, those Astros, the same team who took them out of the playoffs in the first round last year.
But then Ian Kinsler -- one of the new guys -- knocked in a couple runs at the end of a very big inning for the Red Sox, and suddenly it was seven-all in Atlanta. That was right before Freddie Freeman hit one out in the bottom of the eighth to make it 8-7 for the Braves, who looked as if they might get this game off the Red Sox after all.
Only a few minutes later there was more magic from the Red Sox, in what has been a magical season so far, one that has them on the verge of being the first Red Sox team in more than 70 years to win more than 100 games. There were two outs in the top of the ninth and a runner on. Brandon Phillips, who first came to professional baseball in 1999 and had just come up to the Red Sox from Triple-A Pawtucket at age 37, was at the plate and back in The Show.
And then, in a launch angle world in Major League Baseball, Phillips launched one to left off Braves closer A.J. Minter for a no-doubter from the time it left the bat.
"High fly ball," said NESN play-by-play man Dave O'Brien. "Deep to left field … watch this baby go … it is gone!"
The Red Sox won, 9-8. They are still the toughest out in this world. They had come back from 7-1 down the way they have come from behind, in some form or fashion, all season. They were down six to the Braves on this day. Then there was the night at Fenway, the opening of a four-game series that the Red Sox ended up sweeping from the Yankees, when they fell behind 4-0 and came back. Last week they fell behind the Marlins and then scored 11 runs in an inning.
October will bring what it will bring for the Red Sox as they try to win their first World Series in five years and their fourth since 2004. But for now, the fans of Red Sox Nation are witnessing a regular season as entertaining and exciting and successful -- and maybe even historic in the end -- as any Red Sox team has ever produced or provided, all the way back to when Babe Ruth was with them.
When it was over Wednesday, and as we get ready now for Red Sox-Astros and later Red Sox-Indians in September -- and two more series, one in New York and one in Boston, between the Red Sox and Yankees -- here is what my pal O'Brien said:
"This is ridiculous."
The Red Sox started off 17-2. They came back to earth from that, and came back to the Yankees, and there was a time as recently as two months ago when it looked as if the Yankees and Red Sox would be neck-and-neck all the way to their last series of the regular season. There was even a point, less than two weeks ago, when the Red Sox's lead over the Yankees diminished from 10 1/2 games to six games in a week, and it looked as if the Yankees were coming on again.
It turns out now, though, that a 17-2 start was no fluke for the 2018 Boston Red Sox. Again, being the best team from the end of March on guarantees nothing in October. The Red Sox won the American League East in 2016 and lost to the Indians in the first round. They won the East last year and lost to the Astros in the first round. But with a few weeks left before the postseason, they are 9 1/2 games in front of the Yankees and nine games better than the Astros in the loss column. Boston is also 16 games better than the Indians in the loss column, 19 games better than the best team in the NL East and 13 games better in the loss column than the best record in the NL, which belongs to the Chicago Cubs.
After more than five months of baseball, the Red Sox have not only been a lot better than the Yankees. They have been a lot better than everybody in the sport. It guarantees them nothing once they get to the postseason. A few years ago, the University of Kentucky was unbeaten all the way into the semifinals of the NCAA men's basketball tournament and lost to Wisconsin. The Golden State Warriors were 73-9 in the 2015-16 NBA season and ended up losing to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
But, at least for now, it turns out that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wasn't kidding around when he compared the Red Sox to the Warriors entering the season. Red Sox fans thought Cashman was just blowing smoke. He was not.
Boston won another come-from-behind game on Wednesday against the first-place team in the other league's East. This time it was produced by Phillips, an Atlanta guy taking a swing like that in Atlanta, the first official swing he had ever made for the Boston Red Sox. Hitting one out of sight for what has been, to this point, an out-of-sight baseball team.
"How did we win that game?" asked O'Brien when it was over. But he knows the answer; he's had a front-row seat to all of it. In a ridiculous season, the ridiculous had just happened again for the Boston Red Sox.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.