BOSTON -- It was mostly dreary in Boston on Friday but about an hour before game time, the skies suddenly brightened and the weather turned pleasant.
Perhaps it was a symbol of sorts for the Red Sox, who considered this opener of their three-game series against the Mariners a fresh start to their season. By romping over Seattle, 14-1, the defending World Series champions at last got above .500 (20-19) for the first time in 2019.
And it was not lost on anyone that the win that got them over that threshold was against the same team they opened the season against in unsavory fashion, losing three out of four in Seattle. Whatever happened before happened. The Red Sox are now ready to turn their backs on their early-season struggles and morph back into who they thought they were before the season began.
“I mean, that’s the first goal. We didn’t play well, so we needed to get back to .500,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We did it without playing our best baseball, I think. We still can do better. Now the goal is to get to five over .500, and so on and so on. That’s how you do it. You can’t start looking at 10 or 20 [games over]. It’s by stages. We’ll try to get to five over .500 as soon as possible and then go from there.”
In truth, the reversal of fortune has been going on for a while but it’s hard to notice while a team remains below .500. Now, you can officially take notice. The Sox have won nine of their last 11 and 14 of their last 20 games.
“It’s great,” said center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.. “I think it kind of shows where we’ve come. Started off kind of slow and we’re taking things back up. I think that’s how seasons go. We were able to kind of grow and make adjustments. We’ve been playing some pretty good ball lately.”
Though nobody is watching the standings too closely in the second week of May, the Red Sox are suddenly just four games back -- the first time they’ve been that close to first place in the division since April 4.
“It sounds good. It’s nice to kind of get back above that [.500] mark,” said first baseman Mitch Moreland. “At the same time, it’s obviously not the end-all. We’re going to continue to work hard and continue to do the small things that we’ve been working on trying to get better day in and day out. We’ve played well the last few weeks; we’ve got to continue to add to that.”
Some of the reasons for the turnaround were on full display Friday.
Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez was magnificent over seven innings, holding the Mariners to five hits and no runs while walking one and striking out five. This looked nothing like the Rodriguez who got walloped by the Mariners in the third game of the season. As a matter of fact, this was the first time E-Rod has gone a full seven innings since Sept. 23, 2017.
“I think that’s the first time in like two years I went seven innings, so it’s something I’ve had in the back of my mind all the time every time I go out there and see my pitch count,” said Rodriguez. “But today was pretty good.”
After posting a 12.38 ERA in his first two starts, Rodriguez has a 2.78 ERA in his last six. Most important is the fact the Red Sox have won all six of those games.
“Fastball command, good cutter. He’s been very consistent, and in different ways, too,” said Cora. “He makes adjustments. You can see it. There’s a lot of confidence there for him to go seven. That was great. I know a lot of people in the dugout were very happy with that. Obviously that helps us out. We’ve been throwing the ball well as a unit.”
“Since we went to Tampa Bay [April 19-21], we feel that we’re putting good at-bats, we’re walking a lot more, we’re controlling the strike zone,” said Cora. “It was just a matter of getting that big hit. I know in Baltimore we struggled two games, but it feels like we’re getting close to who we are.”
Finally, the Red Sox can say that what they are is a team that is above .500.
“We know who we are, we know how we can play and like I say, it’s a big relief for us that now we go over .500 and then we start playing better,” said Rodriguez. “We know how we [can] play and we’re going to be better than this.”