It took 24 games but on Friday night in Toronto, Red Sox manager John Farrell finally got the full roster with which he expected to start the season, with the additions from the disabled list of Shane Victorino (on Thursday) and Will Middlebrooks (Friday).
Since then the Sox are 3-1, batting a combined .294 (going 40-for-136, with 20 walks). That compares to their overall record of 13-14, batting .246.
They have won the first game of each of the last two series – against the Blue Jays and Rays, respectively – after going 1-6 since the start of the season. The last time they had won a first game of a series was April 7 against the Rangers.
After beating the Rays, 7-4, Tuesday night at Fenway Park, the Sox have scored seven or more runs in three of their last four games, outscoring opponents 23-18, including 22-11 in their three wins.
“We’re in a stretch here probably the last eight, 10 games where the at-bats have become more consistent,” Farrell said. “It’s just guys getting that point in the first month where they’re gaining some comfort, they’re gaining some confidence.”
Victorino hasn’t needed need a month to get there.
After starting the season on the DL, Victorino entered Tuesday’s game 2-for-15 with five strikeouts in his first three games since being activated. On Tuesday, he went 4-for-4 with a double, a sacrifice fly, and two RBIs. It was his most hits in a game since he went 4-for-5 on June 21, 2013, at Detroit.
It was also his 14th career game with four or more hits and second with the Sox and the first time he had a hit in every at-bat in a game with at least four at-bats since July 25, 2009, while with the Phillies against the Cardinals, when he also went 4-for-4.
Hitting in the No. 2 slot in the lineup, he has hit safely in three of four games since being activated, and is batting .316, going 6-for-19, with a .474 slugging percentage and .333 on-base percentage, with two RBI and two runs scored.
While those numbers reflect a small sample size, they also reflect Victorino’s ability. All other No. 2 batters combined this season have hit .268, going 26-for-97 with six walks, 12 strikeouts, seven doubles, a home run, 12 runs scored, and five RBIs in 23 games.
Victorino, who injured his hamstring in the final spring training game, didn’t get into his first spring game until March 10 and appeared in just 10 games as the Sox brought him along slowly as he recovered from his extended 2013 season and nagging injuries along with right thumb surgery in December.
“He’s had an abbreviated [spring training] camp, missed three weeks [while on the DL], roughly 10, 11 [rehab] at-bats before being activated here,” said manager John Farrell. “So we knew it was going to take a couple of games to get his feet on the ground, which it has.”
On Tuesday night, Victorino used the entire ballpark. The erstwhile switch-hitter who has only hit right-handed so far this season, got the team’s first hit with a first-inning single into short right field. He followed that with a single off the wall, getting thrown out trying to stretch a double. His sacrifice fly to center in the fifth scored Will Middlebrooks with the game’s first run. In the Sox’ five-run sixth he hit an RBI double to right. And in the eighth he singled to left.
“He gets the base hit the other way to get things off for his first hit, much like we’ve seen a number of balls to the pull side,” Farrell said. “He does give a completely different dynamic in that two hole. And when we can set the table for that middle of the order, we’ve got a chance to score some runs.”