The Red Sox headed to Minnesota Sunday for the second half of a six-game trip. More important, they’re headed in the right direction as they approach the quarter pole of the 2014 season.
After Sunday’s 5-2 win at Texas, the Sox enjoyed a day off with a winning record. It was an impressive weekend for Boston, scoring 13 runs in two games after being held to one hit by Yu Darvish on Friday night. It was the type of resiliency we saw from last year’s team. By the end of the weekend, Sox players were wearing cowboy hats and looking forward to the next opponent on the schedule.
The baseball season is only six weeks old, but the Red Sox have already come a long way.
On April 25, Boston took the field in Toronto with a fully loaded lineup for the first time. That was the day Will Middlebrooks was activated from the DL. Shane Victorino had been activated a day earlier. With both of them in the lineup the Sox were fully loaded for the weekend series with the Blue Jays, and responded with 16 runs in the three-game set. They took 2 of 3 at Rogers Centre and then won four of their next five series.
A 9-5 record since April 25 has pushed the Sox above .500 for the first time since April 3, when they were 2-1.
They began this work week two games out of first in the AL East, but more notably are starting to hit. They’ve scored six or more runs in seven of their 14 games with an intact roster.
Boston is doing well in walks and on-base percentage, but the point of the game is scoring runs. Despite the high OBP, Boston’s had trouble getting the hit to break a game open.
That started to change during a homestand last week. As usual, Dustin Pedroia was the catalyst as his grand slam against Oakland on May 2 led a 7-1 win. A day later, Jonny Gomes’ first-inning grand slam fueled a 6-3 win.
“Last year we were known for our walk-off wins,” Gomes said. “Maybe this year we’ll break a record for grand slams.”
We’ll see. The Sox need 12 more to do that. For now, the team is happy to see improvements in situational hitting.
For example, they were 4 for 8 with runners in scoring position in Saturday night’s 8-3 win over the Rangers, then followed up by jumping out to a 4-0 lead on Sunday. It was the first time this season the Sox scored in both the first and second innings of a game.
All of this is happening while the pitching has rounded into form.
Red Sox starters have allowed just 24 earned runs in the last 11 games. They are one of only three teams in the American League to use just five starting pitchers this season.
We expected the pitching to be good this year, but weren’t sure what the offense would look like. For the first time the lineup’s identity is coming into focus. At its best, Boston has an opportunistic offense that rises to the occasion at key moments. Think back six months, when big hits by David Ortiz, Victorino, and Gomes led the way to postseason wins.
It’s a long way to October, but recent developments are good signs heading down that road.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.