Their early troubles seem to be over. The Boston Red Sox are winning baseball games and looking like a team that can defend its championship.

And, not surprisingly, their resurgence goes along with defending MVP Mookie Betts sliding back into form.

On April 17, after a 5-3 loss in the Bronx for a two-game sweep by the Yankees, Boston dropped to 6-13 and was in last place in the American League East.

After that game in which Betts went 0 for 4 with a strikeout, his average had dropped to .200, along with a .305 on-base percentage and .371 slugging average.

Not good.

But it was only 19 games, some saner heads protested.


Seems they had a point.

In Boston’s next game, a 6-4 win against the first-place Tampa Bay Rays, Betts went 2 for 4 with a double and a home run.

Since leaving the Bronx, Boston is 15-6, and Betts is batting .373 with a .500 on-base percentage and a .613 slugging percentage.

His RBI production has doubled (seven in the first 19 games, 15 in 21 games since). In Betts’ second at-bat Friday night against the Seattle Mariners, with two outs and Jackie Bradley Jr. on third base, Betts looked in trouble. He took a first-pitch fastball down the middle, then swung through another.

He got another fastball, at 96 mph on the outside corner, and bounced it into center field, scoring Bradley and igniting a rally. J.D. Martinez followed with a single, setting up Mitch Moreland’s three-run homer for a 4-0 lead.

That Betts at-bat did bring up a concern. In 2017, Betts had a habit of taking good pitches – not “hunting pitches you can do damage with,” as Manager Alex Cora has said in the past – and thus falling behind in the count.


When he’s behind in the count or has two strikes, Betts is batting .174 (12 for 69). When he puts the ball in play on the first pitch, Betts is batting .375 (3 for 8). When he’s ahead in the count, Betts is hitting .417 (14 for 34).

As we saw briefly in Portland in 2014, when he batted .355 in 54 games, Betts is constantly working on his craft. That he climbed out of his slump is no surprise. He seems back in his groove.

And when Betts is in sync, the Red Sox win more than they lose. Despite his early slump, he is leading the team’s regulars in OPS (.914).

Obviously, it is not only Betts who has boosted Boston’s turnaround. The starting pitchers are going deeper. Moreland continues to mash, leading the team in home runs (12), RBI (29) and slugging percentage (.590). Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez, sandwiched around Betts in the lineup, make for a terrific top of the order. Rafael Devers, who had two RBI when Boston was 6-13, now has 18 RBI and leads the team with a .326 batting average.

But Betts ignites this group, which is why Red Sox ownership would like to sign Betts long term. But Betts is in no hurry, and the price for his services seems to be climbing.

How much will Betts be worth? He becomes a free agent after the 2020 season.


Xander Bogaerts, who makes $12 million this year, was to become a free agent after this season. But Bogaerts, 26, signed a six-year extension for $20 million per year.

Betts, also 26, already makes $20 million after avoiding arbitration by reaching a deal with the team this winter. He will make more next season. An extension – or free-agent contract – could be in the neighborhood of Bryce Harper (13 years, $330 million) or Manny Machado (10 years, $300 million).

There will be plenty of time to wonder what Betts’ long-term deal might be worth.

For now, the Red Sox only want him to hunt pitches to hit and keep this team heading north in the standings.

JACKIE BRADLEY JR. is another outfielder who will be a free agent after the 2020 season. His worth is obviously connected with his glove, as evidenced by his game-saving, home run-robbing catch in Baltimore on Wednesday. Cora calls Bradley “a game changer.” But he also has a career batting average of .234 and is hitting .149 this season. He makes $8.55 million this year. How much will Bradley, whose agent is Scott Boras, be asking for in 2020?

Boston’s roster is built around its young players. Affording them in the future will be the challenge.

DUSTIN PEDROIA was scheduled to play Saturday night for the Portland Sea Dogs against the Trenton Thunder, but he was scratched just before the game. Cora said he wanted Pedroia to play three straight games in his rehab assignment. He was expected to play Saturday and Sunday in Trenton, then again Monday night at Hadlock Field against Hartford.

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