Bradford: The Red Sox feel they have learned their lesson

Rob Bradford
October 02, 2018 - 7:42 am

USA Today Sports


That team meeting after falling behind 2-0 to the Astros last year ...  Therapeutic? Yes. 

"I think we had a moment after Game 2," remembered Rick Porcello.

Frustrating? Absolutely.

"It does suck to go through a whole season essentially and then it was almost like one of those last-resort type of things. Why didn't this come to anyone's attention if we all thought it and why didn't we bring this up before the All-Star break?" added Joe Kelly.

Lesson learned, at least that's what the Red Sox are saying heading into Game 1 of their best-of-five American League Division Series Friday. The across-the-board message in that clubhouse is that the look-in-the-mirror moment is going to be had well before that first pitch.

"We have kind of run into a very similar wall the last two years in the playoffs. In order to not leave no stone unturned, it’s going to be something we talk about before the series starts," Porcello said. "It’s a little different. AC (Alex Cora) has a great feel for what’s going on in here and it might be something he feels needs to be said. I can promise you we’re not going to allow that to be any kind of excuse or reason why we don’t do well.

"We don’t want to have call a meeting after Game 2 because we’re down 0-2 and we haven’t played our best baseball. God forbid we do go down 0-2 this year we want to make sure we’re playing our best baseball. Whether it’s necessary or not necessary, why leave it to chance. Let’s make sure everybody is on the same page. Let’s go out there with a chip on our shoulder, some swagger, and some confidence."

The likely soon-to-be American League MVP concurs.

"Obviously, it’s going to be a different feeling. We have different guys. That may bring a different feel. I just think we have to be in that situation to kind of know. I know one thing, we have to have a sense of urgency from the get-go," said Mookie Betts, adding. "It has happened the last two years. It can’t happen again. ... I’m not sure we have to say it," said Betts of the emphasis on urgency, "but I’m sure it will be said at some point."

This was and is a very real thing.

Two years ago the Red Sox went into Cleveland with as much confidence as any Boston postseason representative, going up against a team with a decimated starting rotation. They walked out stung by Andrew Miller's outings and the foundation for an Indians sweep. Last year it was Houston who put the Sox on their heels from the get-go, paving the way for two Minute Maid Park routs.

Perhaps it couldn't be classified as over-confidence, but judging by the reaction after that team meeting there wasn't the sense of urgency needed in such a situation.

This time, there is an acknowledgment. Standards have been set and expectations rolled out.

"I think there is a lot of the same guys in this clubhouse who carried over," Porcello explained. "It kind of started in spring training and it’s still resonated with guys trying to get to that same spot. We should bring that feeling back. At the end of the day the results are what they are, but you want to put your best foot forward. We’ve done everything we can to prepare and play our best baseball and we haven’t gotten in our own way. If we get beat and we get beat by a team that plays better than us in those five games we can live with that. We can’t live it it if we feel we are the ones who are beating ourselves or not playing up to our potential.

"As one of the veteran guys in here, there hasn’t been one time this year where there has had to be any kind of talk about preparation or what we’re doing or focus. If we ever have to have a conversation it’s about dress code or stupid things like that. It’s been pretty awesome. It’s definitely a rarity. It doesn’t happen. We have a great opportunity and have all the pieces in place."

It sounds like that first team meeting is coming. No matter those 108 wins. Whether it works or not, the wake-up call is coming early this year.

"We’re a different team. What we’ve been doing, we have to keep doing that. I feel it’s definitely different this year," said Andrew Benintendi. "The year we had. The guys in here are obviously experienced it. You put all those things together and we now know what it takes, at least for a first round."