9: What if the Red Sox pitching didn’t collapse in September 2011
The Red Sox were sitting pretty on September 1, 2011. They had a half-game lead on the Yankees in the AL East and an 8.5 game lead on the Rays for the wild card. The offense was the best in the league, while Josh Beckett (2.54 ERA) and Jon Lester (3.09) were having Cy Young level seasons.
Yet while the offense kept up the pace in the season’s final month, averaging nearly five and a half runs a game, the pitching completely fell apart. Beckett (5.48 September ERA), Lester (5.40), and John Lackey (9.13) were terrible, and relievers Daniel Bard (10.13) and Jonathan Papelbon (two blown saves) blew the few opportunities they got. The Red Sox went 7-20 and lost the wild card to the Rays on the last day of the season.
But what would have happened if they just won one more game? The offense was still one of the best in baseball, and they had a roster stocked with postseason experience. Is it so inconceivable that they could have gone on a run in October?
And what would have happened to manager Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, both of whom resigned after the season? One more win in September could have changed the course of Red Sox history.