Boston’s Franchy Cordero jumps to celebrate with teammates Enrique Hernandez and Alex Verdugo (99) after the Red Sox swept a doubleheader from the Twins last week in Minneapolis. AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

The Boston Red Sox offense been hot to start the season. The Sox have scored more runs than any other team in the American League and and lead the majors in batting average. They’re averaging more than 5.5 runs a game and sit on top of the AL East.

The weather has not been as hot. The Red Sox already have had three games postponed. Opening Day at Fenway was pushed back a day because of rain, the first game of the series in Minnesota was rescheduled due to safety and curfew concerns in Minneapolis, and last Friday’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox wasn’t played because of snow, wind and rain in Boston.

Basically, it was postponed because of April in New England.

Yet the Red Sox wrapped up that series with Chicago having played all 17 scheduled games. There are no makeups looming in the distance, no loss of precious days off over the next six months.

You can thank the seven-inning doubleheader for that.

The rule, put into effect last year, allows teams to play two games without wiping out their respective pitching staffs. The Red Sox were swept in two shorter games on Sunday, but losing a pair didn’t make Boston Manager Alex Cora any less of a fan of the format.

“It’s an advantage,” Cora said. “For teams that play in big markets, those nine-inning doubleheaders will take a toll on you. One at one, one at seven. Sunday day game. They were tough, very tough. And I think they were tougher on the fans, to be honest with you.

“Now you’ve got that sprint for seven innings. You grab that beer and a steak and then you watch the second game. I wonder who did that last year?”

Cora did. He was a fan at home watching those games, serving his one-year suspension for his involvement in the 2017 Astros sign-stealing scandal. Now he’s back in the dugout managing shorter makeup games for the first time.

And loving it.

“It’s a sprint,” Cora said. “The urgency is something that I really like about it.”

That’s why he had catcher Kevin Plawecki bunting the runner along in the second inning of  the doubleheader opener in Minnesota last week. It’s why he had activity in the bullpen an inning later when Nathan Eovaldi struggled. Those are the type of moves we don’t often see in the early innings.

It’s also why the seven-inning game could be the cure to what ails the sport. For one thing, seven-inning games are much quicker. Sunday’s games clocked in at 2:04 and 2:24, respectively. More in line with the time of game for a regular-season hockey or basketball game.

Shorter games are great, and resonate much better in today’s short-attention span world. Action is even better. It isn’t just the length of a major league game that has turned so many young fans away from baseball, it’s the lack of action during those games. Strikeouts and walks are at a record high – and there isn’t much happening when either happens.

The urgency Cora speaks of happens at the very start of a seven-inning game. Teams play to scratch out a run and don’t hesitate to make personnel moves to defend that lead. The game speeds up.

You could feel that in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader with the White Sox. When Boston trailed Dallas Keuchel 2-0 in the fourth inning, it felt like time was starting to run out on them. When Hunter Renfroe was picked off first base with the tying run at third to end the fourth inning, it was a big blow. The Sox ultimately lost 3-2.

Purists don’t like seven-inning games. That makes sense. Yet in an era when the people who run the game talk about pitch clocks and three-batter minimums and other changes to the game, the seven-inning option allows the game to be played the way it always has been. Only quicker.

Monday, it was back to nine-inning baseball, and Boston was back to pounding the ball. The first six batters scored as the Red Sox took an early lead and never looked back in an 11-4 victory.

“We’re good,” said Martín Pérez after losing Game 2 on Sunday, “and we’re not going to quit. We’re good enough to compete with any team and we just need to stay together and stay focused.”

The Red Sox have been focused early. This team continues to build confidence that it can win any game. No matter how many innings those games last.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.


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