As the National League continues to leave no doubt about who its World Series favorite is, the American League may finally be settling on one of its own.

The Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox are rolling, folks. Hanley Ramirez’s dramatic home run last week kicked off a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees, and they’ve begun this week by taking three straight from the Baltimore Orioles.

The latest is Wednesday’s 5-1 triumph. Clay Buchholz pitched seven innings of one-run ball. The Red Sox took the lead on a two-out, bases-loaded error in the sixth and padded it when Andrew Benintendi’s name was plucked from the “Clutch Red Sox Hitter” hat and a three-run homer materialized.

It wasn’t long ago that the AL East race looked like one nobody was going to run away with. The Red Sox, Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees were all very much in it and armed to the teeth for a bloody gladiator fight that would take a toll on everyone.

Instead, there are the Red Sox at 14-5 in September and 88-64 overall. They are Maximus standing unharmed amid the wreckage and asking if we’re entertained.

It’s not just the seven wins in a row. Nor is it even the breathing room they have. They lead the Blue Jays by five, the Orioles by six and the Yankees by 8.5. FanGraphs gives them a 98.1 percent chance of winning the division. Impressive, but it’s not the most resonant thing about the Red Sox right now.

Nope. That would be just how darn ready for the postseason they’re looking.

The Red Sox haven’t been a bad team at any point in 2016, but they’ve spent the bulk of it flexing one or two big muscles while trying to hide puny, undeveloped muscles. In the beginning, they had offense but no pitching. In the middle, they got some starting pitching just as their offense finally slumped. Shortly after that, their bullpen fell apart.

That last point brings us to one of the biggest factors in Boston’s September surge. As Alex Speier of the Boston Globe observed, it’s thus far been a historic month for the club’s relievers:

And the band played on with two more scoreless innings Wednesday. Make it a 0.88 ERA in September, a figure that all the key members—Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler, Joe Kelly, Junichi Tazawa, Matt Barnes, et al.—share the credit for.

Meanwhile, Boston’s starters are doing well in their own right.

They have a 3.45 ERA in September, and a 3.59 ERA in the second half. Rick Porcello might be the AL Cy Young favorite with 21 wins and a 3.08 ERA, and is rolling with a 2.34 ERA in his last 11 starts. David Price has a 2.84 ERA in his last 11 starts. The waters beyond them are murky, but it’s saying something that there are solid arguments to make for Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz and a potentially healthy Steven Wright as the team’s third-best starter.

As for that offense, well, it just keeps on ticking.

The Red Sox have scored at least five runs in all seven of their consecutive wins, and 121 total in September. With either Benintendi or Chris Young in left field, Red Sox manager John Farrell must be very pleased knowing that only one of his regulars (Travis Shaw) has an OPS under .799.

This is a very complete team. And they know it.

“I think we know, and I think everybody else knows, you’ve got to play 27 outs to beat us—and we keep that mindset,” Mookie Betts, the possible AL MVP front-runner, said recently to’s Paul Hagen. “We’re never out of it.”

And as the Red Sox get hotter, the competition both within and without the AL East only seems to be getting weaker. 

If the season ended today, the Red Sox would play the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series. They’re playing well but are running out of arms faster than the Black Knight in a fight with King Arthur. Corey Kluber still lives, but Carlos Carrasco is done for the season and Danny Salazar is fighting to return from an arm injury.

The Texas Rangers loom as the bigger roadblock to the World Series for the Red Sox. And while theirs don’t involve any backbreaking injuries, they have pitching woes of their own. They entered Wednesday with a 5.63 ERA in September, no thanks to co-aces Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish combining for an 8.59 ERA.

In a seemingly related story, the same number-crunching system that shows a 98.1 percent chance of the Red Sox winning the AL East also gives the Red Sox a 19.0 percent chance to win the World Series. That’s the highest of any team in the American League. And the way they’re shaping up, that’s not so hard to believe.

What’s harder to believe is the Red Sox have a higher chance of winning it all than even the Chicago Cubs, which the odds state they do. These are the same Cubs that have won 97 games and are a powerhouse in every conceivable way. There’s supposedly a goat-related hex on them, but they’re at least as well equipped to beat their curse as the Red Sox were back when they popularized beating curses back in 2004.

However, a matchup with the Cubs in the World Series is a bridge the Red Sox can worry about crossing when they get to it. For now, they can enjoy knowing they have a team that’s turned getting there at all into a realistic possibility.

The Red Sox have been searching and searching and searching for that team. They’ve finally found it.


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

Follow zachrymer on Twitter

Read more MLB news on