Red Sox first to 20 wins as Dalbec breaks out

May 8th, 2021

For the Red Sox, this is the week that slumps are fading away.

Or in the case of in Friday night’s 6-2 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards, his slump was belted deep into the seats in left field for a three-run homer. The victory moved the Red Sox to 20-13, making them the first team in MLB to reach the 20-win mark.

Dalbec, who came into the night in an 0-for-27 rut, showed his first sign of promise in the top of the third when he lined a single to right with an exit velocity of 104.5 mph.

But the real fun came an inning later when with two on and two outs, Dalbec swatted a hanging curveball from Matt Harvey for a no-doubter that left his bat at 107.9 mph with a launch angle of 36 degrees and a Statcast-projected distance of 399 feet.

These heroics came a day after Franchy Cordero broke an 0-for-25 dry spell with three big hits to lift Boston to a 12-9 comeback win over the Tigers.

Did Cordero’s breakout on Thursday help inspire Dalbec on Friday?

“Yeah, me and him had a few good talks, and [we’ve] been pulling for each other and talking with each other after games, just so it didn't feel like we were alone going through it,” Dalbec said. “So that helps a lot. He’s an awesome dude, and I'm glad that he came up to me in Texas after one of the games. We talked for five to 10 minutes, so it's great. It’s good to have teammates like that. I'm very fortunate to have teammates like that.”

It turns out Dalbec got pep talks from more than just teammates. How about a recently retired Red Sox legend?

You see, Dalbec isn’t the first highly touted rookie to slump mightily for Boston. In 2007, Dustin Pedroia -- who, by the way, won the American League Rookie of the Year Award that season -- was hitting .172 on May 1.

Alex Cora, Boston’s manager, was the guy who spelled Pedroia a lot during Pedroia’s early slump in ’07. And it was Cora who put Dalbec in touch with Pedroia earlier this week.

“Yeah, a couple days ago, I talked to [Cora] about [Pedroia],” Dalbec said. “I talked to Pedey about it the other day, too. You’ve just got to talk about it. If you keep it internalized the whole time, it’s going to eat you up.”

What type of advice did Pedroia give Dalbec?

“Just that this is part of it, just got to grind through it,” Dalbec said. “It's never as bad as it seems, and it's never as good as it seems, too. So that's the whole ‘ride the wave’ thing. Just got to be the same guy. He's awesome.”

On Tuesday, it was Hunter Renfroe who busted out with three hits, including a homer.

You might say that it’s finally bottoms up for the much-maligned lower third of Cora’s batting order.

As it is, the Red Sox lead the Majors in most of the most significant offensive categories. If that offense becomes more balanced, a team that has led the AL East for most of the season becomes even more dangerous.

As for Dalbec, this is the type of showing people expected when he belted eight homers in 80 at-bats in his first taste of big league life last season, and after he led the Grapefruit League this year with seven homers. His homer against Harvey was his second of the season.

“He’s been working hard,” Cora said. “It’s not lack of effort. I’m glad he got a single on the first one, and [Harvey] hung a breaking ball and he put a good swing on it. Like I said about Franchy yesterday and today [with Bobby], it’s good to see them smile. This is a tough sport, and for them to see results, it’s a good feeling. And hopefully they can take off now.”