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Do you believe in magic? And do you have to?
On the first day of September, that moment has arrived for this year's Sox.
The Sox remain in first place, two games ahead of the Tigers, going into September, but it really feels as if they've been sputtering since the All-Star break. They lost five straight in mid-July, including a three-game sweep on their last trip to Detroit, but immediately righted the ship with five straight victories, including a sweep in Minnesota.
They won six straight last week at Sox Park, including sweeps of both the New York Yankees and Seattle, but then lost three of four in Baltimore, as well as the key series opener on Friday's return to Detroit. They're a mundane 25-21 in the second half since the break.
A team that has thrived on clutch hitting and good pitching has suddenly seen both grow suspect. They left 12 men on base Friday, including more than a few in scoring position. Jake Peavy gave up a two-run homer in the first, and couldn't hold a tie after the Sox scrambled back in the middle innings.
Was it all a mirage up to now?
It says here, no. I believed all along the Sox could compete if they got comeback seasons out of Peavy, Adam Dunn, and Alex Rios, and Chris Sale fully developed as a starter. That's been their recipe for success, along with a dash of Kenny Williams's deals bringing in reinforcements like third baseman Kevin Youkilis and pitcher Francisco Liriano. There's no reason to think that recipe won't continue to succeed.
It's just that the Sox seem to have looked down and realized where they were and wondered how they got there.
So no more predictions. Saturday night's game, with Liriano on the mound, is key, but so is Sunday's matchup between Sale and Detroit ace Justin Verlander. So is every game from here on out; it's September.
Magic has nothing to do with it.