He has fit right in. For instance, in Friday's 2--0 win over the Rangers, Cabrera completed his race from first to third with only one shoe after his stylish red-white-and-black number flew off while he was rounding second. The next day, after grounding out during an 8--6 loss to Texas, he flipped his batting gloves into the stands in mock surrender.
In contrast, Garciaparra was a more solemn presence whose health problems and cold war with the front office resonated in the clubhouse. According to two team sources, Garciaparra told Francona he was unable to play on July 1 in New York. Garciaparra watched the thriller, which the Yankees won 5--4 in 13 innings, stone-faced while almost never leaving the bench. But as the game extended into extra innings and New York shortstop Derek Jeter dived face-first into the stands to catch a 12th-inning pop-up, Garciaparra volunteered that he could give Francona an at bat in the 13th. Francona declined.
"Put it this way," one of the sources says. "The difference between the two teams was obvious that night."
Says one teammate, "It just wasn't going to happen for him here anymore. He had such bad feelings toward the team that he thought his phone was bugged."
Says Schilling of Garciaparra, "His situation never affected me. But he clearly had some serious dislike for the front office after the [aborted] trade. It was very obvious he wasn't coming back and didn't want to be back [after this season]. So what are you going to do, just play out the string? Plus, at the [end of July] he said he was going to need time off. So now you don't know how much he's going to be in there. You may get Nomar only 30 times the rest of the way. And is that a healthy Nomar or is it a hobbled Nomar?"
This season's prize acquisition, the 37year-old Schilling (18--6 at week's end), has been exactly as advertised: a Cy Young candidate with an appetite for big games. As Schilling drove to Fenway on Aug. 31, for instance, for the first game of a showdown series with Anaheim, he had goose bumps on his arms. He survived to go 72/3 innings and limit the Angels to three runs that night in Boston's 10--7 win. He capped the 9--1 home stand on Sunday with another dominating performance: In a 6--5 victory over Texas, Schilling went 81/3 innings and held the Rangers to three runs on five hits.
"The reason I came here," says Schilling, who approved a trade last November from the Arizona Diamondbacks to Boston, "was to be on the mound here in September and, hopefully, October. It's set up that way now. If this team had won [the World Series] last year, I would not have been here."
Meanwhile the 32-year-old Martinez (15--5, 3.55 ERA at week's end) remains the soul of the staff. He mesmerized the Rangers on Friday, allowing just four hits over seven innings. Though he generally throws in the low 90s--a drop from four years ago, when he was in the mid-to-high 90s-- Martinez relies on pinpoint control of all his pitches and can summon extra zip on the fastball in big spots. He already has surpassed his wins and innings totals from last year. "Right now I'm in good shape," he said after Friday's performance. "I feel at the tippy-top part of my game."
Says Mientkiewicz, "What's more surprising than how we've played the last three weeks is how this team played .500 ball for three months before that. With the starting pitchers this team has and the offense, that's hard to imagine."
Not in 100 years have the Red Sox come from behind after Aug. 15 to win a pennant race against the Yankees. Now, as if straight from a Hollywood script, the possibility was right in front of them, even as a seven-game trip to Oakland and Seattle loomed. Says Lowe, "It's all about getting hot at the right time."