BOSTON -- On the one-week anniversary of manager Alex Cora uttering after a tough loss at Tropicana Field that it was “going to be a fun summer in Boston,” the Red Sox continued to make their manager look like a prophet.
The Red Sox followed the skipper’s confident statement by sweeping a seven-game homestand, capped by Thursday afternoon’s 15-1 blowout of the Royals.
“It started with a tribute to No. 15 [Dustin Pedroia], right? And we scored 15 in the last game of the homestand,” said Cora. “That night was special. That night brought energy to the place. I don't know if that has to do with the way we played, but I think it was a good way to start it and today was a great way to end it.”
The Sox looked a little wobbly a week ago after losing two out of three in Kansas City and another two out of three at Tampa Bay to fall to 44-31, a half-game behind the Rays in the American League East.
Then they came home and thrilled the masses by sweeping the Yankees before following that up with a four-game Royal flush to put Cora’s club 20 games above .500 (51-31) for the first time since 2018.
Prior to Fenway being at full capacity, the Red Sox were 15-13 at home this season. Since it opened to full capacity, Boston is 12-4 at friendly Fenway.
“They're making a difference,” Cora said of the fans. “Early on, it was difficult. I mentioned to you guys when we were in Texas [in front of a full crowd], and [when] we came here to play Detroit, it felt like we were flat.
“It's not that we were flat, it's just that the atmosphere was different. This past weekend [against the Yankees] was amazing. Even now, the last few nights. Yesterday, the last few innings [after a rain delay], the handful of people that were here were loud.”
And Boston’s bats were just as loud as the crowd on Thursday. This was the club’s highest scoring output of the season, and the 17 hits tied a season high.
In addition, the Sox got a dominant pitching performance by Nathan Eovaldi (seven scoreless innings, five hits, no walks, six strikeouts) and rang in July by making summer seem as fun as Cora promised. Boston leads the Rays by 3 1/2 games in the AL East.
“We’ve been playing well all around, good baseball,” said Eovaldi. “The starting pitchers have been throwing the ball well, the relievers have been coming in and slamming the door, and then the defense has been great. And our offense -- you can’t say enough about how great they are.”
Kiké Hernández got the party started with his third leadoff homer in five days. It isn’t as if he’s Kyle Schwarber or anything, but Hernández is now giving Cora the spark the team hoped for when he was originally installed into the leadoff spot.
Even the slumping Danny Santana (.151 average coming into the game) got into the act, ripping a three-run homer as part of a five-RBI day and getting some luck on a 43.7-mph RBI single that traveled just 108 feet before plopping in front of Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Jerry Remy laughed to viewers on NESN. “When you’re hot, you’re hot, right?”
The Red Sox are as hot as the Boston heatwave earlier this week -- the one that mercifully ended on Thursday.
Rafael Devers, who has been scorching nearly all season, unloaded for his 20th homer of the year, which soared in such no-doubt fashion that Royals right fielder Jorge Soler didn't move a muscle as the baseball flew over him like an ascending airplane. The three-run shot in the sixth came off of Devers’ bat at 110.2 mph and traveled a Statcast-projected 426 feet. Devers also had five RBIs.
“Offensively, when you see him taking his walks, great things are going to happen,” said Cora of his star third baseman. “He’s controlling the zone and he’s in a great groove. Now he’s what, 20 [homers] and [69 RBIs]? Like I’ve been saying all along, usually he struggles the first part of the season and then he gets hot with the weather. Let’s see where it takes him.”
The Red Sox will ride their wave of momentum to the West Coast for a three-game series that starts Friday in Oakland and will continue in Anaheim for three more at the start of next week.
“I know on the West Coast, we’ve got a lot of fans over there, and hopefully they show up too and they help us,” said Cora. “Now we’ve got another challenge. People are going to say, ‘Well, Oakland, they’ve been tough on [us] since 2018.' We’re gonna keep getting challenges.
“We’ve got to keep proving ourselves, and that’s not going to stop. I have confidence in the group. I believe in our coaches, and we have a good group. We have a good baseball team.”
And a fun summer ahead.