Bradford: The Red Sox want to remind you they have now won 113 games

Rob Bradford
October 17, 2018 - 1:54 am

USA Today Sports

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HOUSTON -- Focus on Instagram posts if you must. Or perhaps it's questionable replay decisions. And how can we ignore the latest round of cheating allegations? There has been a lot to pick through after three games in this American League Championship Series. All entertaining. All good for business.

But after the Red Sox' message-sending, 8-2 win over the Astros Tuesday night, there really was only one storyline that truly mattered. It was one Eduardo Nunez presented in a neat 20-word postgame package.

"We have swagger. We have confidence. And last year we did not have that," said the Red Sox third baseman. "That’s the big difference."

It's been easy to for many to dismiss the fact the Red Sox won 108 games in the regular season. That was the case when playing the Yankees, and it has certainly been the norm while going up against these Astros. It was Houston the national television broadcasters surmised might go down as one of the best teams of all-time in the midst of Game 2, not the club whose win total now sits at 113.

Yet what the Red Sox continued to offer was the mindset of a team that has found whatever edge is needed.

There have been three games now in enemy territory and the results have been basically three resounding Red Sox' victories. (There was, of course, that ninth-inning Craig Kimbrel meltdown in Yankee Stadium that put a slight dent in the narrative.)

They have outscored the home team 28-6 while carrying a 35-17 hit advantage. The Red Sox' team ERA for these road games stands at an even 2.00 without the Yankees or Astros hitting a single home run. All of this isn't an accident, which is exactly what Alex Cora's club wants to remind us every chance it gets.

you don’t win 108 games by accident. Forget 108, If you win 100 games you have a good team. Now there might be somebody better, but you have a good team. Whoever wins or loses this series the other one has a good team. But somebody is going to win and somebody is going to lose. I hope we’re still playing next week. We just beat a team last week that has a good team. They’re good. They set a record for the number of home runs in a season. But that’s what happens. Good teams at this time of year get beat. There is only one winner. You hope it’s you. I hope it’s us. But I also have had my heart broken many times this time of year.

"They are not only talented, but they’re tough. They’re tough," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "Our leadership, his staff, they’re tough guys. We played a bad game here or there during the season but we bounced back. We’re resilient, so that’s the type of club we have. I don’t know what’s going to happen but our guys are comfortable coming in here. You can just feel it before the game, or yesterday working out. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I couldn’t tell you when it was 2-2 that we were going to win the game, but they did a good job. I think they like winning anywhere. I think it’s one of those where you can see they don’t back down."

"The guys stepped up, did the job. We saw swagger," Nunez added. "As I say all the time, we have more confidence in ourselves. We have our manager who has confidence in ourselves, too. I think that’s a big thing."

What we're seeing isn't by accident.

Take two of the guys who played hero this time around, having started the season on different teams -- Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce. 

Eovaldi allowed two runs over six innings, totaling 13 mostly-effective frames this postseason. Pearce's home run gave the Red Sox a lead they wouldn't relinquish, with the first baseman now hitting .304 with an .863 OPS. But most importantly these two midseason additions have brought the kind of mental toughness that makes these sort of runs possible.

For those players who had gone through the past two years of early postseason exits there was probably some inkling of doubt. That's where the new guys, the new coaches, and the new manager came into the equation. This is how the swagger was built.

"They’re high-quality individuals," said Dombrowski of his trade deadline acquisitions. "They’ve been around the game. They’ve been in big situations. And you can see they are not intimidated at all. I don’t know what’s going to happen the rest of the postseason. We went into Yankee Stadium and won two games, we come here and win a game. We’ve got a good club. They’ll play where they can and there are a lot of good clubs this time of year so you do everything you can to win a ballgame. But those guys are high character. I’m not concerned about them backing down. They’ll be ready to go."

Hard to argue. One-hundred-and-thirteen wins will do that.

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