For one night, this felt like 2018 all over again for the Red Sox

Rob Bradford
July 12, 2019 - 11:04 pm

This was the plan all along, it just took 91 games for it to kick in.

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Eduardo Rodriguez dominates for seven innings, giving up just one run.

The offense tears up Fenway Park, led by home runs from Rafael Devers, Christian Vazquez and Xander Bogaerts.

And the Red Sox go up against one of baseball's best and look actually better than their opposition.

This was all on display in what would be Sox' message-sending, 8-1 win over the Dodgers Friday night. (For a complete recap, click here.)

Before the game, it was all just talk. But, as Alex Cora pointed out, you have to start somewhere.

"We can play a lot better. Everybody knows it," the Red Sox manager said. "I think that was the coolest thing in the All-Star Game, how many people in that clubhouse still believe in us. I don’t know if they really like it or not but they let us know how good we are. If we forgot about that, the three guys that were there on the coaching staff, the players reminded us of that so that was the cool thing about the All-Star game."

At least for the first game out of the All-Star break, talk became action, taking place against the team many believe is the one to beat in all of baseball this season.

The undeniable biggest takeaway in this springboard game was Rodriguez. As Alex Speier points out, the outing marked the third time the lefty had gone seven innings in his last six starts, matching his total from the previous 65. He also reached a career-high with 22 swings and misses. The Red Sox are now also 10-0 with Rodriguez pitches at least six innings.

If Game 4 of last year's World Series against these same Dodgers was perceived as the moment Rodriguez suggested was ready to take the next step in his career, the legs finally officially got moving in his reunion against Los Angeles.

And then there are the bats.

Since that first game in London, the Red Sox are averaging more than eight runs a game, scoring less than six in nine tries. It's probably no coincidence that the run somewhat coincides with Devers sliding up the No. 2 spot in the batting order, with the third baseman coming away with three more hits this time around. When hitting in the No. 2 spot Devers' batting average now stands at .448 (26-for-58).

"We've been swinging the bat for a while," Cora noted. "I think overall as far as balance, we're very balanced right now. See what Raffy is doing, Benny (Andrew Benintendi) will be fine, he actually hit some balls hard today. Christian, what can be said? And Jackie (Bradley) in the seventh spot, Brock (Holt) in the ninth, I think as far as like balance, this is the more balanced lineup we've had in the last year and a half honestly as far as left-right, left-right, left-right and just taking advantage of matchups. We're comfortable with where we're at offensively. It seems like we're doing a better job with men in scoring position, which is important. I've been saying all along it's not the numbers, it's the quality of the at-bats in certain situations. And it was great. We did an outstanding job."

It all had a different vibe than what we had been witnessing at Fenway this season. In the stands and on the field. For one night -- thanks in part to those blue and gray uniforms on the visitors' side -- it felt like 2018 all over again.

"We have to come out aggressive because we know these guys are one of the best in the game," Bogaerts said. "Obviously they’re going to come here and try to beat us pretty bad for last year. I think it was a good way to start."

The Red Sox have now scored in the first inning in nine of their last 11 games. This time it was made possible by Devers' solo homer, which came on an 0-2 pitch after he attempted to bunt.

"He saw an opportunity to get on base and obviously we would love him to swing the bat all the time but he's playing winning baseball and he felt like if he gets that down there's a man at first with one out and Xander behind and J.D. (Martinez) behind and Benny," Cora said of the bunt attempt. "So you can't question him trying to do that. That's baseball and the game will dictate where you do it. Now they kept the third baseman the whole time over there. And he put a good swing on it and hit a home run. We were joking about it. He kind of like set him up. He was just playing the game"