In a rain-shortened, two-game series in Buffalo, N.Y., the Red Sox made sure to get plenty of bang for their buck.
After a six-homer performance in Monday’s blowout win, they added five more long balls Wednesday to beat the Blue Jays, 7-4, in the final MLB game scheduled at Sahlen Field this season. That marked the first time Boston has hit at least five homers in multiple games within the same series since June 17-19, 1977, vs. the Yankees (they did it in all three games of that set).
At least some of that power surge ought to be credited to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who made some alterations to his batting order ahead of Monday’s 13-4 romp of the Blue Jays. The impact he has on the team is obvious to his players.
“It’s obviously huge,” Kiké Hernández said. “He’s a great communicator. He always finds ways to make time for everybody, have everybody feeling comfortable [and] confident.”
Hernández, who entered the night with a .279/.410/.662 slash line over his previous 18 games, has been Boston’s hottest hitter. He stayed that way Wednesday, posting a home run, a double and a walk. He also homered twice on Monday, and Cora said a simplified approach has helped Hernández thrive.
“He’s working counts, he’s hunting pitches in certain spots and he’s putting good swings on it,” Cora said. “That [home run] was a great at-bat, 0-2 count, gets on top of the fastball and the ball goes out of the ballpark.”
Hernández put the Red Sox on the board in the third inning, hitting a screaming line drive for a 355-foot two-run homer that barely cleared the low left-field wall.
“Thank God for Buffalo,” Hernández said.
He nearly added another to the opposite field in the seventh, but right fielder Randal Grichuk was able to settle under it on the warning track.
Still, the Red Sox leadoff hitter is adding plenty of pop to the top of the order, and he’s on pace for a career-high 25 homers this season (his current high, 21, came with the Dodgers in 2018).
As a team, the Red Sox homered six times over three games in their first road series against the Blue Jays, which was played at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla. In this two-game set, Boston added 11 more. Both parks played as hitter-friendly, but that’s not the only factor at play with this potent Red Sox club.
“Yeah, we play in some good offensive parks in this division: Camden Yards; Fenway, when it’s hot; Rogers Centre is the same way,” Cora said. “But I think -- give us credit -- we put together some good at-bats.”
In addition to Hernández’s three home runs over two games against Toronto, Boston received two each from Rafael Devers and Hunter Renfroe, as well as one apiece from Jarren Duran, Danny Santana, Michael Chavis and J.D. Martinez.
Santana, who was just activated from the injured list (left quad strain) on Monday, exited Wednesday’s game in the seventh due to left groin tightness after chasing down a ball in the outfield. Cora said Sanatana’s injury “doesn’t seem too promising,” and another IL stint is likely.
What is promising, though, is the way the Red Sox responded -- particularly with the bats -- this series after dropping two of three in the Bronx. Cora believes the final game of the New York series was the kickstarter, even though his group scored only once in that loss.
“Controlling the strike zone,” Cora said, when asked to identify the catalyst for the success. “I know we didn’t score runs, but we were trying to stay within the zone. When we do that, like I always say, we become elite.”
Hoping to ride that wave of elite offense, the Red Sox head home for eight crucial divisional games against the Yankees and the Blue Jays -- two teams nipping at the heels of an AL Wild Card spot -- all with the Trade Deadline looming. If Boston’s bats are truly back, it’ll make the Red Sox awfully tough to beat.
“We went through a little bit of a rough patch offensively, and the pitching was the one keeping us in the game," Hernández said. "Hopefully, these two games, it means that our offense is back to normal.”