There is something in the air in Red Sox Nation. It’s not just the throngs of college students returning to Boston to rejoin the bandwagon. It’s not just the chill in the breeze or the long shadows or the changing leaves. It is more than that. It is the promise of October baseball in Boston. Late-October baseball.

Since the beginning of The Streak, all eyes have been trained on the current nine-game series versus the AL West. It was the easy schedule, they said, not The Trade. Wait until they play teams above .500, then we’ll see what the team is made of. That time has come and the answer is clear. This team is made of guts and heart. Of hitters and pitchers and fielders. Of players who want to play together and win. It is everything it wasn’t before The Trade.

The nine-game set started with Anaheim. Sweep. Nothing more to say. Texas next. Two out of three. Schilling and Pedro pitched like the aces that they are. A dangerous Texas line-up made Wakefield their bitch, and the Sox still rallied and tried to steal the game. Now Oakland. A solid win behind Bronson Arroyo and this make-or-break stretch has already been deemed a success, with two games left to play. Without looking too far ahead, the Sox have a chance now to control their own destiny by issuing the Yankees an invitation to post-season via the Wild Card.

And what of that team in New York that so recently had a 10-and-a-half game lead on the Sox? They have fear in their eyes, that’s what. Steinbrenner stooped so low as to beg the league for a forfeit against the Devil Rays who didn’t get out of hurricane-plagued Florida in time for a double-header. The friggin’ Devil Rays, George? Remember the “vulnerable pitching” we’ve talked about? How about a Kevin Brown broken hand version? The guy punched a wall after losing a game. Doesn’t exactly spell confidence, does it?

Tonight, Derek Lowe: A’s killer, takes the hill, then we’re back to Pedro already. October’s comin’…