What a difference a week makes for these Red Sox

Rob Bradford
July 28, 2019 - 8:02 am

Remember a week ago?

When Sunday turned to Monday everyone was talking about how a guy named Asher Wojciechowski had derailed the Red Sox season. He was the Baltimore pitcher who absolutely befuddled Sox hitters, dampening any optimism there was to be had heading into the 14-game stretch against the Rays and Yankees.

It was time to sell. It was time to focus on Patriots training camp. In short, virtually most hope was lost.

Then these past six games happened.

A defibrillator has been applied to the Red Sox season, with Alex Cora's crew springing out of bed looking like a million bucks. Once a team which had mastered two steps forward 1 1/2 steps back has become something worth investing in. For fans, it's an investment in time. For Dave Dombrowski, it's trade assets. For the Red Sox players, it's the idea that they can once again feel like an elite team Major League Baseball.

The latest reminder: Another beat down of the team that still sits eight games up on the Red Sox in the race of the American League East.

(For a complete recap of the Sox latest win, click here.)

"That we’re good just like them," said Cora when asked about his takeaway from the Red Sox' three-game dominance of the Yanks, which was most recently punctuated by Saturday's 9-5 win.

"We have a good offense. I think like I said yesterday, the last two days, the difference between us now and earlier in the season is hitting with men in scoring position, putting good at-bats. Sam Travis with men at second no outs. He hits the ball to the right side base hit. The two sac flies, walking Mookie. That’s the difference. Early in the season, we were bad at it. And we weren’t able to add on throughout some games we were leading by three or four and we didn't put teams away and they kept coming back. But now it feels like not only the line is moving, we're actually scoring runs when we have a chance and that’s the key of the whole thing. Quality at-bats. There are certain times we don’t care about strikeouts. Nobody on two outs, go ahead try to hit a homer or hit an extra-base hit but that at-bat by sam that was beautiful. He fouled one off and almost killed the bat boy over there and then he hits a ball in the hole and we get first and third and then Brock (Holt) the great at-bat, the sac fly. That’s winning baseball."

Winning baseball has actually led to wins -- five of six against the Rays and Yankees, to be exact -- and a whole new conversation.

The Red Sox are currently tied with Oakland for the final Wild Card spot, with Cleveland four games up on the two teams. (Central division-leading Minnesota is only one game ahead of the Indians.) Then there are the Yankees.

It still seems like a pipe dream that anyone can catch New York when it comes to the division, but the way the Yanks have taken on water of late makes some wonder. Remember 2011? (Of course, you do.) On July 28 the Red Sox were 10 1/2 games up on Tampa Bay and we all know how that ended up. The common thread? Starting pitching.

Over the past seven games, Yankees starters have given up 52 runs. The pitching staff as a whole has allowed 73 runs in its recent six-game stretch, the most in the history of the franchise.

Brian Cashman can say what he wants about not panicking over overpaying for starting pitching prior to Wednesday afternoon's trade deadline, but the reality is the reality. As good as the lineup and bullpen may be, if the Yankees don't get help they aren't going anywhere. Which brings us to the Red Sox.

A good chunk of the credit for the Yankees' uneasiness has to be attributed to what the Red Sox have become. During these six pivotal games, virtually everybody has found another gear.

Andrew Benintendi lost his leg kick and has hit .462 in the two series', with the latest accomplishment coming in the form of three hits (including a home run) Saturday. J.D. Martinez is hitting .444 with three homers. In fact, seven of the Sox' regulars have an OPS of better than 1.000 during since they left Wojciechowski in the rearview mirror.

And perhaps most importantly, while the Red Sox' offense is piling on runs the team's starters are doing their part. Eduardo Rodriguez came one out away from making it seven straight starts in which the Red Sox got at least six innings out of their starting pitcher, with the group managing a 3.38 ERA over the six-game run.

Since starting their series against the Rays, the Red Sox have scored a major league-best 54 runs. That's 10 more than any other team, and 47 more than the Detroit Tigers.

"It’s fun," Xander Bogaerts said. "I think everyone has noticed that. It’s fun. Lots of guys contributing up and down the lineup. Pitching doing good. Defense doing good. Pinch hits. Clutch at-bats all over. It’s been really fun these last couple days, especially against these guys."

Where it has all left the Red Sox is with hope, along with the increased need to invest a bit more in this group. While Nathan Eovaldi has been integrated into the bullpen, there is still too much relief-pitching uncertainty for a team that has now shown it can make another run at this World Series thing. At this time last year they deemed the club as one worthy of going all-in for leading into the trade deadline -- payroll tax be damned. Judging by what we've witnessed over the past few days, that would seem to be the case once again.

"We have a good team and we have our goals," Cora said. "All we have to do keep is keep winning the little battles."