10/02/2004 8:52 PM ET
Red Sox monthly recap
August the turning point in Red Sox season
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
|The Sox started surging after Orlando Cabrera (right) was acquired from Montreal. (Winslow Townson/AP)
With two key players (Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon) sidelined for the entire month, the Sox stepped up and produced. Curt Schilling's first start in a Boston uniform (a 4-1 win over the Orioles) was just what everyone envisioned. The pinnacle of the month was a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium, capped by a Pedro Martinez gem. Keith Foulke was flawless as the closer, converting all five save opportunities and posting an 0.60 ERA.
A stretch of mediocrity which lasted for three months began in May. It began badly, being swept in three straight at Texas. One of the best games of the month was May 8, when Pokey Reese scampered for an inside-the-park homer and also put one over the Green Monster. Schilling made Reese's heroics stand up, firing a complete-game, 9-1 gem over the Royals. The Sox showed some fire in taking two out of three from the A's in a Division Series rematch at Fenway.
Just as they got healthy (both Garciaparra and Nixon returned), the Sox turned in their worst month of the season. The chemistry suffered a bit as roles changed, and the injured players struggled to get back in their grooves. Pedro Martinez started to become dominant again, outdueling David Wells and the Padres, 1-0, on June 8. It became apparent by the end of the month that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were both hitting their way into the AL MVP race.
Perhaps the most eventful month of the season began with the final loss of a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium. That 13-inning heartbreaker was followed by a 12-inning defeat the next night in Atlanta. The Sox showed some life July 24. Jason Varitek fought Alex Rordiguez, and Bill Mueller beat Mariano Rivera with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. The month came to a close with icon Garciaparra being moved to the Cubs in a four-team swap that brought Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz aboard.
Finally, it all started coming together. Cabrera solidified the infield defense and the starting pitching started turning in quality outings nearly every night. The Red Sox closed out August by winning 13 of their final 14 games. While there was some initial skepticism because the sizzling stretch started against inferior competition, the Sox started to look like a much crisper team.
This was the peak. The Sox took control of the Wild Card race early in the month, sweeping the Angels at Fenway, taking two out of three against Texas, and then going to Oakland a week later and breaking out the brooms again. The Sox produced another riveting comeback against Rivera at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 17 to close the AL East deficit to 2 1/2 games. But that was as close as they got. They clinched the Wild Card with a 7-3 win at Tampa Bay on Sept. 27.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.