BOSTON — Interim manager Torey Lovullo stepped out of the dugout, and catcher Blake Swihart made his way to the mound.

Time for fist pumps all around, while the Fenway Park crowd stood to applaud.

Were they cheering only for pitcher Henry Owens and his solid outing? Or was there appreciation for what all these young Red Sox are doing?

They are offering optimism, something not found around these parts for some time.

Owens allowed three hits and no runs in 7 2/3 innings to lift Boston to a 2-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon. The Red Sox are fourth in the American League East (1/2 game ahead of Tampa Bay), but 31-22 since July 30.

“It’s given us a lot of hope for next year,” Lovullo said. “It’s given us a lot of confidence to say we’re ready to turn the page and contend for a championship next year.”


Do you believe it?

Momentum is an overrated factor in baseball. And when you are talking about carrying a good vibe from September into next April, that is stretching the warm feelings just a bit.

But winning now is better than the alternative. If these young players were stinking up the park, would there be any reason to look forward to next year? Maybe they can turn it around.

“Definitely,” said Swihart, who homered Sunday. “Next year, I think there are going to be some eye-opening things happening.”

Now, what would you expect the young Swihart to say? But he may have a point.

Look at this core of young players:


 Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 22, has 190 hits and a .324 average.

Outfielder Mookie Betts, 22, is electric in the outfield, while batting .291/.807 OPS in the leadoff spot.

Eduardo Rodriguez, 22, is 9-6 with a 3.97 ERA in his rookie season.

Swihart, 23, is batting .269, including .296 since the All-Star break. His home run Sunday was his third.

Owens, 23, is 4-3 with a 3.84, and has allowed one earned run or less in six of his 10 starts. The concern for Owens was getting his 6-foot-6 body in sync. Command was an issue. On Sunday, he went to two 3-0 counts in the second inning, walking one. But that was the only walk Owens allowed.

“I’m a lot more comfortable than I was at the start of the season,” Owens said. “Early on I was struggling with my mechanics. But I’ve harnessed it.”


Much is made of Owens’ fastball being only 89-91 mph. But with his change-up, curve and developing slider, he struck out five and got a total of 13 swings and misses. The radar gun is not the only definition of dominance.

“He was attacking guys with that four-pitch arsenal,” Swihart said.

So many kids coming through for Boston, and we have not even talked about outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. or corner infielder Travis Shaw, both 25; utility player Brock Holt, 27; or outfielder Rusney Castillo, 28. Lefty Rich Hill, 36, is no kid, but he has also provided a late-season boost.

“There’s energy. There’s focus. There’s concentration. We’re playing really good baseball,” Lovullo said. “I think everyone expects that to happen on a daily basis. When you think about the future, it’s really bright.

“When you think about the direction this organization is going in … There was a time about 2 1/2 months ago where we were all depressed. We weren’t feeling too good about things.”

As the Red Sox floundered through the season, Red Sox fans had to deal with a second straight non-contending season. Team owner John Henry did not like dealing with it and stripped General Manager Ben Cherington of his power, hiring Dave Dombrowski as team president.


Cherington resigned. But in a nod to the job Cherington and his staff did – providing this foundation of youth – Dombrowski kept assistant general manager Mike Hazen, naming him the new general manager (obviously a much less powerful title with Dombrowski around).

Boston has a youthful base and some veteran leadership in David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia.

Enough for 2016?

Hardly. There is still a rotation that needs some oomph, plus a bullpen begging to be rebuilt. And the sliding careers of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval must be addressed. Dombrowski has a lot to do in the offseason.

For now, enjoy the ride on this kiddie train.

“We have some more games,” Lovullo said, “and hopefully more wins.”


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