BOSTON -- The Red Sox are doing their best to avoid talk of the playoffs, but with every win their return to the postseason looks increasingly inevitable. Once that berth has been assured, the next goal will be securing the top spot in the American League and home-field advantage as long as they are alive in the postseason.
At some point, that quest will become a major talking point, too.
If and when Boston locks down the No. 1 spot in the American League playoffs, it assures the club of getting the lion's share of games in a place that has been this season what it used to be -- a nightmare for opponents and a romper room for the Red Sox, who improved to 48-25 at home with an 8-4 joint-jumping win over the New York Yankees on Friday that cut Boston's magic number to seven to clinch the American League East.
Consider manager John Farrell's pregame thoughts on the matter: "The one thing that stands out is our guys respond to the environment in here. Any time you come off the road either after a long road trip, the energy that is created here our guys thrive on it. I'm not going to say we do things differently from an offensive standpoint to play to the ballpark, but I think our guys love playing in this ballpark and in this city and for these people."
Hours later, Boston had a 4-0 first-inning lead. Hours after that, a roar that harkened back to the glory years of the previous decade was heard when Jarrod Saltalamacchia hammered a tiebreaking grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning. It took time, but the city and its people have largely bought in, and that roar of approval was further proof.
Simply put, the Sox have taken back Fenway Park, a phenomenon that bodes extremely well for October. Farrell and the players do not want to discuss such matters, but it has to be in their heads. And if they need a history lesson, the numbers are easy to crunch.
Since 1999, Boston is 20-11 at Fenway Park in the postseason versus 16-18 on the road. That is a massive discrepancy, especially given the nip-and-tuck nature of the best-of-five and best-of-seven postseason sets. Again, talk of such matters is limited in the clubhouse, at least publicly, but getting to the point where such conversations can begin is important.
"We're just playing hard and trying to bury everybody," said designated hitter David Ortiz. "Not trying to be sneaky, just trying to win games. ... We're just trying to win games to make sure we walk into the playoffs."
Boston has won 14 of its last 19 at home, several in dominating fashion (it has outscored opponents 28-8 in the last two games at Fenway). A few more performances like Friday night and the Sox will be waiting for the winner of the wild-card play-in game and gearing up for two home games to begin their October run.
Sure, anything can happen in the postseason, but history has proven that successful playoff runs for the Red Sox often involve Fenway magic. It's not a bad place to start, and anyone needing further proof on the matter need only listen to the roars Friday night.