- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2011

BOSTON (AP) - The Boston Red Sox came close to winning 100 games in six of the last eight seasons. Could this be the year they do it?

Their lineup is loaded. Their rotation is strong. Their bullpen is improved. Their health is much better.

And the addition of two of baseball’s most productive players, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, makes them widely favored to reach the World Series for the third time in eight years.

“I’ve always wanted to be on a team that won 100 games,” Josh Beckett said. “I feel like this team has a chance to do something really special like that.”

Maybe so. But once the regular season ends, the victory total of each playoff team is rolled back to zero.

History shows that 100 wins hardly guarantee postseason success.

In the past 24 years, only two of the 25 teams that reached that high level won the championship _ the New York Yankees in 1998 and 2009. Of those 25 teams, 17 didn’t even make it to the World Series.

The Red Sox have won 100 games only three times since beginning play in 1901, accomplishing the feat the last time in 1946.

So Kevin Youkilis has a much more modest hope.

“My goal is win one and then go for two,” said Youkilis, who moves from first base to third to make room for Gonzalez. “As long as you make the playoffs, you give yourself a chance to win a World Series. So, hopefully, we win enough games where we make it in the playoffs. That’s all that matters.”

In 2004, the Red Sox were 98-64. Then they eliminated the Yankees (101-61) in the seven-game AL championship series, and swept the St. Louis Cardinals (105-57) in the World Series.

Starting in 2003, the Red Sox have won at least 95 games six times. They won 89 last year even though injuries sidelined three of the first four hitters in the lineup for long stretches. Youkilis played just 102 games, Dustin Pedroia 75 and Jacoby Ellsbury 18.

Now they’re back in a batting order in which slugger David Ortiz figures to bat sixth.

Boston has a rotation that includes Jon Lester (19-9, 3.25 ERA last year) and Clay Buchholz (17-7, 2.33). One of baseball’s worst bullpens added Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler.

But winning 100 games in the AL East while playing 18 each against the defending division-champion Tampa Bay Rays and the Yankees is a difficult accomplishment. General manager Theo Epstein doesn’t mind that his players have talked about it after finishing third in the division last year.

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