Bradford: This much winning is not normal

Rob Bradford
August 08, 2018 - 11:38 pm

USA Today Sports

TORONTO -- Matt Barnes claims the confidence ingrained in his award-winning, 10-year-old Bristol Conn. travel team was pretty high. But ...

"No, this is better," the Red Sox relief pitcher admitted.

Brian Johnson pitched for a 2011 University of Florida club that started 20-2. Yet he would admit that no offense to Winthrop and Rhode Island, but beating the Blue Jays is probably a bigger feather in any team's hat.

"The only thing I can compare that to is that when you went to the field you expected to win every day. That’s the only thing I always relate to this, is when you lose it’s weird. It doesn’t feel right," he said. "You’re coming to the field and you expect to win every single day. That’s how it felt in college and that’s how it feels now. It came to the field and it didn’t matter who we were playing. But that was college.

Heath Hembree has fond memories of the run his Spartanburg, South Carolina Little League team went on. ("We were pretty good," said the Red Sox righty.) He does confess this is probably at another level

"I’ve been part of good teams growing up at different levels, but nothing like this," he explained. "Everybody is really focused on what they have to get done. The vibe we have right now, we expect to win every night. We show up expecting to win."

Steve Pearce played on an Orioles club that caught fire in the second half of 2014, going on to win 96 games. Yet ...

"We had a mentality like this," he said, "but this is far beyond that."

The point is that what the Red Sox are doing simply doesn't happen in Major League Baseball. After their 10-5 win over the Jays Wednesday night, Alex Cora's team has now won 25 of its last 30 games, already clinching at least a .500 record with 47 games to go.

The winning is one thing, the mindset is another, as numerous players in the visitors' clubhouse were quick to explain. It's an atmosphere that is rarely bottled in big league baseball, even by the most successful clubs.

"It’s pretty insane," said Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly, who wasn't backing off the excellence of his Corona, Calif. travel team when asked for his best of the best. "We’re winning in different aspects of the game. Come from behind. Hitting. Pitching. Playing good defense. It’s the best team I’ve ever been on besides travel ball. We had a good team.

"Once you start winning you expect to win," he added, "It kind of rubs off and makes every loss hurt even more. It makes you want to not lose more than win. Everybody is hungry. We’re going out there wanting to win no matter what. It’s fun."

"We don’t even think about it. I couldn’t even tell you what our last 30 or 40 games were," said Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi. "We just expect to win. It's a feeling I obviously haven't had at this level and I don't think any other level either."

And what might make this whole thing work beyond the regular season run is that way of thinking. They aren't caught up in winning 36 more games to eclipse the regular season record held by the 2001 Seattle Mariners. They are obsessed with not losing.

For Major League Baseball teams playing Major League Baseball 162-game seasons, this is not the norm. But somehow, some way, that's what is legitimately going on in this clubhouse.

"The talent around the league. The competition. Playing teams over and over and over again. It’s tough to do. There’s something special here," Pearce said. "We take a game like tonight, flush it, and strap it on again tomorrow."

Or, as Jackie Bradley Jr. explained it, "Winning is good."

It's a reality this group is all too aware of.

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