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BOSTON -- September has brought nothing but disappointment for the Red Sox the last two seasons, but this club is playing well and seems to be doing all the right things as the 2013 regular season begins to wind down.
With a 7-2 win over the Chicago White Sox Saturday night at Fenway Park, the Red Sox are 81-56 entering Sept. 1. They finished the month of August with a 15-12 record and have in fact finished each month of this season with at least a .500 record.
"I think our players are aware of what's taken place here in the past but we've got so many new faces," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "That was evident when we broke spring training with eight or nine new players from a year ago. I think the attitude downstairs is completely different than it's been maybe over the last couple of years. Just hearing the talk that is down there, it's a confident group but certainly not one that takes anything for granted and that shows in their preparation and their attention to detail."
Without trying to cause too much heartache, let's revisit recent history.
During the historic September collapse of 2011, the Red Sox went 7-20. On the final day of the season they still had a chance to earn a postseason berth but lost in dramatic fashion in Baltimore.
In 2012, under then-manager Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox went 7-19 in September, but the club's downfall started with a 9-20 record in August.
What's different about this season?
Better chemistry, for one thing. Everyone is on the same page and the front office, coaching staff and players communicate with one another effectively. The team is winning on the field and there's a sense of urgency in the clubhouse as the final month of the 2013 regular season has arrived.
"It's good because everybody's trying to make things happen every day and that's how you win ballgames," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, adding, "It's been like that all season. Guys trying to make things happen and it's a feeling we haven't had in the last couple of years. Hopefully it continues."
Clay Buchholz, who pitched Friday in a rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket, still managed to rejoin his big league teammates in Boston for the end of Friday night's 4-3 win.
"You want to be here pulling for the guys," Buchholz said. "We pull for each other and that's what makes this team fun."
|Jake Peavy limited his former White Sox teammates to two runs Friday, improving to 3-1 in six starts with the Red Sox.|
The Sox have been pitching great despite Buchholz's extended absence, and that's the biggest reason to believe they can thrive this September.
With the addition of veteran right-hander Jake Peavy at the trade deadline, and Buchholz likely to return to the rotation on Sept. 10 against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Sox's pitching staff seems poised for a strong finish.
"I don't care how good your team is, pitching makes the world go 'round in this game we play," Peavy said Saturday after posting his third win in six starts for the Red Sox. "You cannot win without good pitching."
Including Saturday's 7-2 win, the Red Sox have given up three runs or less in 11 straight games for the first time since an 11-game stretch from April 12-25 during the 1988 season. In the current stretch, Boston has allowed only 22 runs and has a team ERA of 2.03 in 97 2/3 innings. Sox starters Peavy, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster have allowed three runs or less in each of the last 11 games entering Sunday, with a collective 2.15 ERA in 79 2/3 innings.
"We expect to do that," said Peavy. "I know it's not going to happen every time out, but we have five guys that we expect that out of. When you expect to do that, and you're prepared to do that, and you go out there and execute a game plan, it happens more often than not with the talent in this room. Obviously, all streaks come to an end, but I'm happy I wasn't the guy to give it up."
Knowing how the last two seasons have ended in Boston, the club's mindset going into the final month is a simple one.
"To not let up," Farrell said. "Nothing is solidified by any stretch of the imagination. Our guys, I think what's really starting to come out is guys know where they're at physically in terms of how much they need as far as pregame work, if they need a day where they have to back off to conserve for a given night. That's why we're trying to continue to rotate everybody through to keep all involved and monitor the physical status of everyone. Not taking our foot off the gas yet monitoring where we are physically is the biggest thing."
There won't be any implosions this September. No tales of chicken and beer in the clubhouse. Boston baseball is serious business again. These Red Sox realize what needs to be done in the final month.
"What I love about this team, it's a team effort on any given night," Peavy said. "It's a special 25 guys, and we're about to have more [with rosters expanding Sunday] pulling in the same direction.
"I don't know what's happened here in the past. Other than 2004 and 2007, I don't care what's happened in the past here. This is a new team, a lot of fresh faces and I promise you not one guy in here is thinking about what happened last year or 2011. This team is looking to do what we can accomplish doing right now."