Red Sox ready for September
Last year, my first full season, we fell behind and kind of knocked ourselves out of the playoff race. So being in a playoff race heading into September is kind of new for me. We have the best record in baseball, so I think the key is to go out each day, play our game and do our best not to put too much pressure on ourselves.
We have a lead in our division, even after losing the series in New York, so our fate is in our own hands. That?s exciting. We don?t have to concern ourselves with what another club is doing or root for another club to help us out. If we do things right, we don?t need any of that. Ideally, we?ll be able to increase our lead a little and give a few guys some time off. Maybe some guys who are really aching can sit down and take a break before the postseason.
Looking at our season to this point, everyone in our clubhouse has contributed. More than that really because it?s bigger than just the 25 guys on the roster at any given time. Guys have done a great job coming in to fill roles when necessary, too.
It?s a team effort and no one guy is ever going to carry a team by himself, even the biggest of superstars can?t do that. Each role is important. That?s why depth and a strong farm system are hallmarks of great teams. Guys are going to have ups and downs throughout the season and there are going to be injuries. It?s up to everyone on the club has to step in and pick up another guy once in a while.
Mike Lowell and Dustin Pedroia have had really strong seasons for us this year. Across the room, Papi?s home run numbers may be down because he?s been banged up but if you look at the rest of his numbers, he?s had a great year. Any one of us in here would take his numbers any day of the week, but people sometimes expect more from him because he?s a superstar and he?s accomplished so much.
I?ve gone through a tough stretch recently. It?s frustrating when it seems like you?re not putting the ball in play then, when you do finally square up, you hit a line drive at someone. It happens in all the time in baseball, though. You just have to keep playing the best way you know how and have confidence you?ll come out of it all right on the other end. You can?t worry about your statistics.
Sure my average has gone down in the second half but I take some comfort in all of the players who?ve come up and offered encouragement, just basically saying, ??Don?t worry about it, you?re still having a good year.?? I thought about it and they were right. I looked at Derek Jeter?s numbers yesterday. He?s a great player and he?s batting .320 or with nine home runs and 59 RBIs. I said to myself, ??You know, he might be hitting .320 but I still have more home runs and more RBIs. You?re still having a good year and it?s not over yet.??
But I?d be lying if I told you that it?s easy to watch your batting average drop like mine did, considering it was pretty high at one point. My job is to help this team win and I want to do that job consistently as possible. I am very hard on myself. I?ve always carried a chip on my shoulder. This game is so competitive I?ve never been in position to feel real security. But, really, I think I?ve actually learned something from this experience and I?m a better player now.
You have to stop listening to all of the people on the outside who think they know what you?re doing or what you should be doing. I needed to block that stuff out and do my job. I know I’m one of the nine guys out here every night and I have a job to do and prepare for every night. There’s no time to look back on last night’s game or even your previous at-bat.
Going back to Tampa Bay, I was hitting the ball hard and driving the ball well. But balls were just getting caught before I got to Chicago. So I knew I was doing the right things. It’s a good sign for me is when I’m having long at-bats, getting in hitters? counts and not chasing pitches. I also know I?m doing the right things at the plate if I’m hitting the ball hard, getting walks and hitting to all fields. When I’m rolling over pitches and hitting everything to the left side, that?s a bad sign.
Now I just want to finish strong, win games and get in the playoffs. By September, everyone is a little worn down, battling some soreness or tightness somewhere in his body. But you put that out of your mind for nine innings every night and do everything in your power to try to win a ballgame. Hopefully, like I said, we can get enough of a lead to give a few guys a breather.
Our fans give us a lot of energy, though. Even the road games feel like home games with our fanbase. Nobody’s surprised anymore when we get a big crowd of Red Sox fans on the road. Nobody’s saying, "Oh my God do you see how many fans we have!" I don’t want to say we expect it, but it happens more often than not and it’s kind of nice to get that kind of support in August when you’re on the road.