College students, with parents emptying pods for their apartments, have overtaken the Fenway/Kenmore Square area. Pickup trucks and cars are packed to the brim, parked in every legal— and illegal — parking space.
It’s September, time for college.
It’s September, time for the Red Sox to play the final 30 days and hope they are not as stressful, ugly, or disastrous as they have been in the recent past. If you were grading their past two Septembers, it would be an F.
In 2011, the Red Sox went 7-20 and blew a 1½-game lead in the AL East and a nine-game lead for the wild card. They missed the playoffs when the Orioles beat them on a Carl Crawford misplay in left in the final game of the season.
Most of the players on this team weren’t there to experience the lowest of lows, but there are enough players to remind the others of the great September collapse.
They went 7-19 last September (and 0-3 in October) to finish off an excruciating season.
The Red Sox know they will have to earn what they get.
“I can tell you this, I’m positive not one guy is thinking about last year or 2011,” said pitcher Jake Peavy, who got the win in a 7-2 pounding of his former teammates, the Chicago White Sox, with seven strong innings Saturday night at Fenway Park.
Sept. 1 means college freshmen in town, and fresh bodies from Pawtucket to help the Red Sox get through the final 30 games.
The Sox have begun early, acquiring veteran John McDonald for infield depth in a deal with the Phillies for pitcher Nefi Ogando.
McDonald will be eligible for the postseason roster, just another veteran who seems to fit with the team. He played for John Farrell in Toronto, and it was Farrell who had a lot to do with bringing McDonald to Boston.
The Red Sox have seven games remaining with the streaking Yankees. They have six with the Orioles, and three with the Tigers and Rays.
It’ll be 30 days of holding their collective breaths and hoping nobody gets hurt.
It’ll be 30 days of trying to get Clay Buchholz back into the form he displayed when he started 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA. He’ll make his third and final rehab start Wednesday with Pawtucket.
It will be 30 days of trying to avoid all of the things they have avoided so far — not losing more than three straight games, and hoping the Koji Uehara magic show is not an illusion.
The one thing the Red Sox failed to do at the trading deadline, and Saturday night at the playoff roster deadline, is secure a veteran reliever. Junichi Tazawa has been fading as he hit 60 appearances. Craig Breslow and Uehara have been reliable and dependable.
The Sox will have to rely on Brandon Workman as the seventh-inning righthander and for the most part, Workman has done the job.
The Red Sox head into September in good shape. So much of their competition is flawed.
The Yankees have been playing well of late, but the Rays, who have lost six of seven to drop 4½ games behind the Sox, have not. The Orioles seem to be fading. The Rays and A’s seem to have wild-card spots to cling to, while the Indians, the most Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team in the league, have a chance to capture a wild-card spot if they get back into one of their good spells.
The Tigers seem to have a hold on the AL Central, but Miguel Cabrera was held out of Saturday’s game because of a strained abdomen. An unsteady Justin Verlander also makes the Tigers a bit more vulnerable.
The Red Sox starting rotation has been every bit as good, if not better, than Detroit’s or Tampa Bay’s over the last 11 games; a Sox starter has not allowed more than three runs in that span. Veterans John Lackey, Peavy, Jon Lester, along with Felix Doubront have been very good, while Ryan Dempster, who will likely move to the bullpen upon Buchholz’s return, pitched a respectable game against the White Sox Friday after serving his five-game suspension for plunking Alex Rodriguez.
Amid the hustle and bustle of the pennant race, we will get a good look at Xander Bogaerts, whose terrific bat will be on display in a part-time role.
We will monitor the fan base, which has not entirely backed a team that won only 69 games last season and created so much negative karma. The place was packed Saturday night — the 21st sellout of 37,363 — and is expected to be full through the Labor Day weekend.
Farrell is simply hoping for status quo, hoping that nobody changes a thing or finds themselves in a 2011 or 2012 time warp.
“I think the holdover players know what has taken place, but we have so many new faces,” Farrell said. “We broke spring training with eight or nine new faces. I think the attitude is completely different than what it’s been the past two years.
Just hearing the talk down there, it’s a confident group, but certainly not one that takes things for granted. And that shows in their preparation and their attention to detail.”
It appears the Sox pitchers have changed their chicken-and-beer ways. It seems newcomers such as Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and others have changed the complexion of the clubhouse for the better.
When the Red Sox walk into Camden Yards for the final three games of the season and know they’re going to win the American League and execute a last-to-first season, then we’ll know the ghost of Septembers past will be gone.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.