BOSTON — The Red Sox aren’t going to the playoffs. Too many stars would have to align just right for it to happen and if the first 139 games have proven anything, it’s that fate hasn’t aligned in Boston’s favor much in 2019.
It’s not even worth the mathematical explanation of how really good the Red Sox would have to be and how uncharacteristically lousy two of the Rays, A’s and Indians would have to be for Boston to miraculously slip into the playoffs.
It’s not happening. On Sunday, football will resume in Massachusetts and this Boston baseball season will fade to the finish quietly in its shadow.
Alex Cora acknowledged the long odds before Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Twins, mentioning the 8 percent chance FanGraphs’ computers give the Red Sox of playing in October. But he was adamant in the postgame that his team is still in contention. Cora talking about a pennant race and managing like he’s in one is neither quixotic nor futile. This can be a valuable month for the future of the Red Sox if he and the players keep approaching the games like they’re important.
The journey is beneficial even if the finish line is out of reach.
Most of these players have never really been in a pennant race before. There was no race last year. The Red Sox got out so fast and so successfully, it was obvious in June, maybe even May, that they were playing postseason baseball. Even when the Yankees were in striking distance, the Red Sox were clearly going to be in the playoffs.
There was obviously pressure in the playoffs. More pressure and more intense pressure and they handled it brilliantly. But it’s different pressure. Winning a seven-game series and winning effectively through September aren’t the same.
Plus some of the guys in key roles now weren’t even here a year ago.
Brandon Workman has never been the closer on a playoff team. Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez have never pitched key innings in night in and night out during a September with little room for error. Both have proven they can now.
Eduardo Rodriguez has never been asked to be a frontline starter with the season on the line. Even Rafael Devers, who thrived in the October spotlight last year, wasn’t being counted on the way he is now. Their continued success sets them up well for a future when reaching the playoffs isn’t such a long shot.
If the Red Sox are two games up or two games down on Sept. 3 next year, those moments aren’t going to feel foreign to them.
After winning the World Series last year, missing the playoffs is a step back for this franchise, but some of the younger players can someday look back on 2019 as valuable training.___