Two impressive comebacks and a 450-foot walk off homerun vaulted the Sox to a 2.5 game lead in the AL Central with 21 games to go.
Things to take away from tonight's thrilling, 15-inning victory over the Angels:
1. Unlike some previous models, this Sox team is resilient. Twice tonight the Sox faced deficits I thought were darn close to completely insurmountable: down three runs to John Lackey, and down one in the 9th to Francisco Rodriguez.
Both times the Sox calmly mounted impressive rallies to come back and tie the game. In seasons past, the Sox might have packed it in in those situations. Not the magical 2005 team of course, but mainly the 2003 squad (and possibly 2006 squad as well), with whom this team bears the most resemblance.
There are many comparisons to 2003: a sloooow-footed, veteran-heavy line up, completely reliant on the homerun, boosted by a midseason acquisition for a defensively-challenged centerfielder (Carl Everett in '03; Griffey in '08) to back four solid starters and a fifth starter black hole. (To be fair, Clayton Richard and Lance Broadway have fared much better than Felix Diaz, Jason Grilli and the like did in '03.)
In any case, the '03 team, for all its power, were oddly easy to intimidate. One bad inning by Jose Paniagua had the whole team breathing into a paper bag and handing the division to the Twins. This '08 team, by contrast, has had little to no margin for error for more than a month now, and are still performing at a high level. (The real test will come in a couple of weeks up in Minnesota.)
This team is surely not without its faults- the baserunning seems to get worse every week and the lack of execution in smallball situations is beyond tiresome- but their tenacity and resilience in the face of injuries and a pennant race is possibly the best indicator that this team just might have what it takes to succeed in October.
A couple other smaller things:
2. Remember Mike Macdougal? In his 3.2 innings since returning from his four-month minor league banishment, Macdougal has allowed three hits, one walk and, most significantly, zero runs. It's a small sample size, but if the "good" September '06 Macdougal returns for the next three weeks, the Sox are in the playoffs, period.
3. Thank everything that is holy that Ozzie called off the bunt in the 9th inning with Nick Swisher at the plate and Alexei Ramirez on first after the count went to 2-0. Few things make less sense to me than bunting a runner to second base, yet Ozzie loves to flirt with the idea. Plain and simple it is just a waste of an out that could be used much more efficiently. And that's not even taking into consideration whether the bunt is successful or not.
You gain much more by bunting a runner to third with no one out, but bunting a runner to second, successful or not, risks far too much with very little return. Please, give it up!
4. Yeah, this game should have ended much earlier, but all's well than ends well. Mr. Opportunity knocked several times for the Sox offense, but they were too lazy to answer the door.The bullpen looked good, but endured some unneeded stress. Once the game went 13 innings plus, the Sox needed this one much more than the Angels. Luckily, they got it.