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Dan Shaughnessy

It’s not the losing or the defense that makes it hard for me to embrace these Red Sox — it’s something else

The Red Sox took two of three from the Mariners, including Wednesday afternoon's 9-4 win, in Seattle.
The Red Sox took two of three from the Mariners, including Wednesday afternoon's 9-4 win, in Seattle.Abbie Parr/Getty

Are you loving these Red Sox?

They are right in the thick of things for a wild-card game — a one-game bakeoff vs. the Yankees or Blue Jays on Tuesday, Oct. 5. They would pitch indominable Chris Sale in that game, which means they could advance to the first round of the American League playoffs. That’s pretty good after a last-place finish in 2020.

So why have they not captured the love and loyalty of the region? What’s missing? What it is we do not trust about this Local Nine?

Maybe it’s their defense. The Sox make a lot of errors. They allow a ton of unearned runs. They play like guys with shoes on their hands.

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Maybe it’s the fact that they don’t do well against good teams. The Sox played great for the first three months of the season but faded in August and September. They flattened Tomato Cans but went 6-17 in games against the Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, and White Sox before finally winning two of three in a series with the Mariners that concluded Wednesday afternoon.

The Sons of Alex Cora beat the Mariners, 9-4, in 10 innings in Seattle. They exploded for six runs in the 10th. They are in a virtual tie with the Blue Jays and Yankees for the wild-card game and come home Friday for a weekend series against the tanking Baltimore Orioles. Sale will pitch Friday. That should be a guaranteed win.

“Not too many people thought the last homestand of the season was going to mean something,” Cora said in Seattle Wednesday. “Now it means a lot.”

It looks like Boston baseball fans don’t have to worry about the Oakland A’s or the Mariners anymore. It’s looks like it’s going to be the Sox, Jays, and Yankees for the final two spots. Three teams. Two qualifiers. For one game. Why not Boston?

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It's looking like Alex Cora has the Red Sox pointed toward the postseason.
It's looking like Alex Cora has the Red Sox pointed toward the postseason.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

So what is missing? Why is the town not agog about these upstart Boston Red Sox? Is it because Mac Jones and the Patriots showed promise in their first game against the Miami Dolphins? Is it because we have flashbacks to Bucky Dent when we think about a one-game playoff against the Yankees?

Is it possibly because the 2021 Red Sox are one of six big leagues teams not to reach the 85 percent vaccination threshold and have had 14 players go on the COVID-19-related injured list in the last three weeks?

It is for me.

I know we are not supposed say this, but I am worn out. Tired of it. Could the Red Sox stand up, for once, and name names? Could they just tell their fans which players won’t get vaccinated? Which players are claiming to be “team guys” while waving to teammates in the dugout after reaching second base and simultaneously threatening to blow up this season by not doing the minimum to protect their teammates and their families? Can the Sox stop positioning themselves as a “team above self” entity while selfish individuals put everybody at risk and make it more difficult to get into the playoffs with a full roster of healthy players?

Where is leadership/ownership? This is weak. The anti-vaxxer Red Sox have made this mission much harder than it needed to be. And still, day after day, we get Cora, all by himself, telling us what a swell group of guys he has.

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Uncomfortable reality aside, the American League wild-card race is pretty good. In a strange way, it reminds me of 1967, when only one of 10 AL teams made it to the postseason. There was no “wild card” forgiveness in those days. You either finished first and went to the World Series — or you went home.

Kyle Schwarber's 10th inning-single Wednesday in Seattle helped lift the Red Sox past the Mariners.
Kyle Schwarber's 10th inning-single Wednesday in Seattle helped lift the Red Sox past the Mariners.Abbie Parr/Getty

In the magical summer of 1967, after games of Sept. 18, the Red Sox, Tigers, and Twins were locked in a first-place tie with 85-66 records. Eleven games remained for those three teams. The White Sox were a half-game back with a record of 85-67.

Now we have a situation where the Rays, White Sox, and Astros are going to the playoffs and the Jays, Yankees, and Red Sox are vying for a one-game bakeoff to join the party.

It should be a great two weeks of baseball. A thrill ride. A date with destiny on Oct. 5. What would be better than Red Sox vs. Yankees in a one-game playoff for the right to join the American League playoffs.

Are you into it?

Are you entertained?

Do you love this team?

Just asking.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.