BOSTON -- A three-game offensive slump -- which turns into a three-game losing streak -- can send Red Sox Nation into a state of panic.
But slumps are going to happen for any team, and the good ones make sure they don't last very long.
By all indications so far, these 23-16 Red Sox are a good team, and they broke out their big bats and proved it in Thursday's 8-1 victory over the Athletics at Fenway Park that contained, quite fittingly, three signature hits.
Signature hit No. 1: In the bottom of the first, Michael Chavis belted a sinking liner to center. Ramón Laureano, a superb defender, came racing in to try to make a diving catch and nearly did. But the ball glanced off his glove. Chavis took advantage of the fact that the strong-armed outfielder was on the ground and he motored into second headfirst as the crowd roared with approval.
"I knew it was going to take him a second to get up," Chavis said. "So off the bat, I'm just trying to take a hard turn around first. And then it was kind of just a read where I was waiting to see what happens, seeing it unfold and he didn't hop up quite as quick as I anticipated. So once I saw that, I thought I had a chance. There's no kidding, he does have an incredible arm, so that was something to take into account. But good thing it turned out well."
It is the type of play that can spark a team when it works, and it did.
"I think Michael set the tempo, hit the ball hard, got to second," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
Chavis, who was recently recalled from Triple-A Worcester, is noticeably leaner this season. It's doubtful he would have even attempted the double on that hit in previous years.
"I'd say it helps a lot in regards to the performance, obviously it helps because I'm definitely faster, able to be a little more athletic," Chavis said. "But for the mentality, I'm also a little bit more willing to take those riskier plays and know that I have a good shot of making it. And that's potentially one of those plays I'm not sure if I take or one of those risks I'm not sure I take in 2020."
Signature hit No. 2: Still in that first inning, Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate. And the steady shortstop was at the forefront of the team's recent slump, going 1-for-12 in his previous four games. Rather than being tentative, Bogaerts was aggressive, attacking the first pitch he saw from A's lefty Sean Manaea and hooking it just fair down the left-field line, where it glanced off the foul pole for a homer. Bogaerts didn't do any demonstrative, Carlton Fisk-type of body language as the ball soared in the air, but he did stand sideways and watch it, hoping it would stay fair, and the Sox had an early 3-0 lead.
It was an ideal night for Bogaerts, because he mainly stayed off his feet by being the designated hitter.
"I'm trying to convince him to DH tomorrow again, but he wants to play short," said Cora. "It was good to see him hunting the first pitch and putting a good swing on it. Then he keeps adding on. The walk tells you who he is. If he was somebody else, he'd try to hit the ball in the corner and see what happens to go for the cycle. But he took his walk and it was a solid night for him."
Signature hit No. 3: Bobby Dalbec, who was out of the lineup the previous two nights so the Red Sox could get a more extended look at Chavis, was back in there on Thursday. And in his first at-bat, he hammered an 0-1, 89.7 mph sinker to center field at an exit velocity of 110 mph and a projected distance of 432 feet for a two-run homer. The only thing stopping that baseball was the back wall to the left of the flagpole.
It was the third homer of the season for the rookie, who is trying to gain more consistent footing. His blast fueled the Red Sox to their second straight three-run inning and starting pitcher Garrett Richards, who was solid all night (six scoreless innings), had a 6-0 lead.
"We're going to keep pushing him and keep grinding," said Cora. "There's a lot of work to do, and he's put in the work. It's something that we're trying to put the best lineup out there on a daily basis, and I just thought the last two days was good for him to reset again and give Michael a chance to go out and play. The two were really good today. It was a solid day for everybody."