BOSTON – When the Red Sox resume their nine-game homestand at Fenway Tuesday night, they will begin July with 50 wins for just the fourth time in history.
They’re leading the AL East by four games and have done an incredible job putting the dismal memories of a 93-loss 2012 season behind them.
The ballpark was electric over the weekend. Sellout crowds watched the Sox take 5 of 6 games against the Rockies and Blue Jays. Summer had finally arrived in Boston as expectations were rising with the temperature and humidity.
The timing couldn’t be better. It was a dismal week for local sports fans.
Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder, the coach and nucleus of the Celtics were allowed to leave, and the Bruins took a 17-second punch to the gut from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
We needed some escape from all of that.
And the Red Sox delivered. Friday night’s 7-5 win over Toronto was one of the most exciting of the year.
When Jonny Gomes stepped up to the plate as a pinch hitter with the game tied and the bases loaded, Fenway stood as one. When he delivered the go-ahead run with a single to left, the place erupted.
Boston sports radio host Mike Salk called last Tuesday’s first game of the homestand “Re-Opening Day.” His point was that many Boston fans had been too engrossed with the Bruins to pay attention to the Sox.
What they rediscovered this week was a team with talent, character and resiliency.
In other words, a team that was the exact opposite of the 2012 Red Sox.
It’s understandable that some fans have still been slow coming back.
There was enough ill will built up from the August 2011 collapse and the ugly 2012 season to last a long time. But this team has represented itself incredibly well, from its response to the Marathon bombings to its play.
It’s a likable team. It’s a winning team. That’s an easy combination to like.
In many ways, the first half of this season reminds me of the Bruins following the 2009-2010 season.
That season ended in crushing defeat, the Bruins blowing a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 to the Flyers.
At the start of the following season, fans were very reluctant to jump on the hockey bandwagon.
By the end of that season, the entire city was bleeding black and gold as the Stanley Cup champion Bruins rode duck boats through a crowd of more than a million people.
That’s not to say this Red Sox season will end in a championship. We’re a long way from that. But it’s safe to say the second half of this season is going to be a heck of a ride.
The Sox will be buyers as the July 31 trade deadline looms, and will have a chance at returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
To do it, they’ll have to beat out the deepest division in baseball. Six games separate the top four teams in the AL East, and the fifth-place Blue Jays, who are hot, might still have most talented roster.
You don’t get a trophy for being in first place on July 1. But you do get the attention of your fans. And this team has proven worthy of that attention.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.