The Red Sox still have a long way to go to climb out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into, but they have to start somewhere.
And perhaps, this week’s road trip could serve as a launching point.
A night after one of their best all-around efforts of the year, they carried the momentum on Saturday night in Texas. The offense sizzled again, Rich Hill was solid in his return and the Red Sox pounded the Rangers, 11-3, at Globe Life Field.
The win was a long time coming for the Red Sox. With the victory, they won their first series since they took two out of three from the Tigers on April 13 — which was previously their only series win in 10 to start the season — and they won their second consecutive game for the first time since April 16-17 against the Twins.
The Red Sox (13-20) can sweep the Rangers when they face old friend Martin Perez on Sunday afternoon.
1. The offense is locked in
Maybe a trip down to hotter weather — first to Atlanta, then to Texas — helped the Red Sox’ bats heat up. But it probably has more to do with a better approach throughout the lineup, and it looks to be becoming contagious.
The 11 runs and 14 hits on Saturday were both a season high. Every Red Sox hitter besides Trevor Story recorded a hit, and everyone in their lineup reached base at least once. They’ve scored 30 runs in their last four games, a far cry from the anemic offense that scored 23 in their previous 10.
A four-run outburst in the second was a good indicator of the progress they’re making as a unit as they kept the line moving with some small ball. Even their outs were productive, as Jackie Bradley Jr. executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to move two runners over. Kiké Hernandez hit a sacrifice fly to set up the big bats in the lineup, and Rafael Devers proceeded to hit a two-run homer — his sixth blast of the season — to give the Sox a 5-1 lead.
The Red Sox are looking more patient and selective at the plate. They drew four more walks on Saturday, giving them 18 in their last four games. They’re averaging more than three walks per game in May.
J.D. Martinez also continued his torrid stretch. He hit a homer to open the scoring in the first, extending his league-best hitting streak to 15 games.
2. Bottom of the lineup was clicking
For the first five weeks of the season, it was mostly the Red Sox’ heavy hitters — Devers, Martinez and Xander Bogaerts anchoring the lineup. But Saturday’s performance from the bottom of the order was a picture of the Sox’ offense at its best.
The Red Sox’ 6-9 hitters of Franchy Cordero, Christian Vazquez, Bobby Dalbec and Bradley Jr. combined to go 8-for-18 with seven runs scored, as they set the table for the top of the order.
Cordero and Dalbec’s performances were especially promising. The two of them right now are the Sox’ everyday first basemen (Cordero played left on Saturday for the injured Alex Verdugo), a position that’s had the worst production in baseball. On Saturday they combined to reach base six times.
Cordero ignited the second-inning rally with another walk — his sixth in 35 plate appearances — and later added an RBI single. Dalbec recorded his fourth multi-hit game of the season and first since April 25.
3. Hill goes long
Hill hadn’t pitched in nine days — he tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday — when he took the mound Saturday. It looked like he didn’t miss a beat, as he gave up two earned runs in six innings, his longest outing of the season.
The 42-year-old hadn’t given up an earned run in his previous three starts, and the Rangers’ sleepy offense wasn’t much of a problem for him. He gave up an early one in the first when Eli White reached on an error from Story and stole two bases before scoring, but Hill otherwise mowed down Texas’ lineup, which included a seven-pitch second inning.
Hill previously hadn’t pitched more than five innings in a game, so it was a bit of a surprise to see him pitch into the seventh, especially coming off his layoff. It caught up to him in a hurry as he served up three consecutive hits to start the inning before being pulled.