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It’s approaching midnight, and the party’s still going on. These Red Sox earned themselves a few days’ rest, but as with everything else that has defined this wholly unexpected 2021 joy ride, they’re going to make sure and live the moment before moving on to the next one.

Somewhere behind second base, on Fenway Park’s immaculate grass, Kyle Schwarber is still blinking away his champagne tears. His own fault, really, as he is one of the few Red Sox to eschew the latest team-issued accessory, preferring “to earn the burn” rather than wear goggles. No complaints, either. He’s loving it, just as he is loving this wild, unscheduled open-air Red Sox family picnic.


He’s hanging with his wife, Paige, when suddenly the giddy, gleeful voice of Christian Arroyo rings out.

“The legend of Kyle Schwarber lives,” Arroyo hollers.

Laughing as he adjusts the goggles still in place above his head, Arroyo stages a perfect imitation of his teammate’s charming moment from an earlier night, when the first basemen celebrated a routine play after a series of defensive miscues. From raised arm to fist-pump to tip of the cap, Arroyo gets Schwarber just right, as if he’d done it before.

It’s not as if these Red Sox are interchangeable parts, but in many ways, these Red Sox are interchangeable parts. It may well be their most defining and most powerful characteristic.

As they hung around for hours on their home turf late Monday night, as they partied with each other and with their families and with their friends, as they pulled champagne bottles from one pocket and Budweiser cans from another, it was that togetherness, that interchangeability, that coursed through the festivities.

Alex Cora had a big smile when things wrapped up Monday night.
Alex Cora had a big smile when things wrapped up Monday night.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

It’s what has allowed this crazy, unexpected season to continue in such a crazy, unexpected way — an abiding belief that anyone, on any night, can do the one thing the team needs to win.


Schwarber wasn’t even the star of this one. The spotlight of the 6-5, walkoff ALDS stunner over the Rays belonged more to Kiké Hernández, with the winning sacrifice fly, as well as Travis Shaw and Christian Vázquez, whose singles got the ninth-inning rally started, and Arroyo, whose perfect sacrifice bunt kept the engine revving, and Garrett Whitlock, with the key relief appearance, and Eduardo Rodriguez, with the redemptive starting turn.

But Schwarber had his turn in Game 3, when his act of self-deprecation went viral. That’s how it is with this 2021 group, these last-four-standing baseball warriors in red, white, and blue, these ALCS-clinching upstarts picked by the bulk of us to go nowhere but propelled by the best of them to keep playing. Give ‘em a 5-0 lead, then take it all away, as the Rays did Monday. They’ll fight you either way. You just don’t ever know who’s going to land the knockout punch.

“Doesn’t matter how big the deficit is or when we get down,” insisted Alex Verdugo, who, by the way, declared the ubiquitous goggles useless, since their foam lining allowed the champagne to soak through. “We felt this is like our first-half team, when we had the most comeback wins, and it’s just keep fighting till the very last out. Do that and good things are going to happen.

“I think everybody counted us out to start off the year and we knew we had a good group of guys. We’re hungry. We love the party. And if we keep winning, we keep partying.”


The party started at 10:34 p.m. Monday, when Hernandez’s fly ball to left unleashed pandemonium, shaking Fenway’s old beams to their core, releasing the home dugout to swarm the team’s hottest hitter at his most scorching moment.

“I’m pretty sure we had multiple guys swallowing up Kiké,” said Schwarber, who like so many of his teammates was perched and ready for what they were certain was going to be Hernández’s walkoff effort.

“I was on top of the railing there, and as soon as he hit it, I was over the railing, saying, ‘OK, catch it, catch it, catch it, OK, got it, run, run, run,’ ” he said. “I went right to Kiké.”

So did Verdugo.

“I was out running down the line as the ball was still coming in the air,” he said. “There was Kiké, then [Hunter] Renfroe, and I was under there just giving body punches to everybody. Then I got out of there quick.”

The ever-elegant Xander Bogaerts joined them, but as usual, he remained grounded by his veteran wisdom.

“I was looking down,” he said, “because I don’t want anybody stepping on me with their cleats. You don’t want anyone getting hurt. No time for that.”

The Red Sox couldn't wait to celebrate on Monday night.
The Red Sox couldn't wait to celebrate on Monday night.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Plenty of time for reflection, though, on a season taking another magical turn through the playoffs, on a manager in Alex Cora steering the wheel in all the right directions, on a party that reflected everything these Sox are about, on a crowd buoyed by the daylong marathon celebration and bolstered by the nighttime playoff game that did its part to lift everything to even greater heights.


The final hundred or so fans had to be practically pushed out the gates, floating as they did to an organist’s rendition of the Phil Collins classic “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now.).”

Look at them now.

No one wanted the party to end. Not coach Jason Varitek, who finally made his way toward the dugout only to stop and grab Bogaerts by the hand, interlacing his fingers and sharing a side bear hug before releasing him again. Not chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who bounced around the field in champagne-soaked red shorts, a black ALCS T-shirt, shower slides, and a backward white baseball cap. Not the various groups of family who posed on the mound for pictures, the parents who found their professional ballplaying kids and wrapped them in long embraces. Not the manager filled with emotion as he hugged his daughter and cried.

“It was so good to see all that,” Bogaerts said. “A lot of relief. These last two games were pretty high tense, two walkoffs. I don’t know how often that happens. It was fun. Just being able to win, to see all the fans.

“We’re not done, but we should celebrate.”

Finally, as the clock inched past midnight, the last holdouts filed toward the dugout, when the cool breeze of the October evening had turned the warm embrace of those new championship T-shirts into clingy, damp hugs ready for the showers.


The page turns now to the ALCS. With an opening game Friday night in Houston, these Sox will show up. Take your pick on who takes the hero’s turn next.

Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at tara.sullivan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.