These Red Sox seem close to better days

The signs are encouraging, though there's still a sizable gap between Boston and the other AL East contenders.

Jackie Bradley Jr. talks to umpire Larry Vanover
Jackie Bradley Jr. and the Red Sox offense continue to search for answers. Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP


It was no Boston Massacre of 1978. Heck, it wasn’t even the 2006 version. But after weeks fretting about it, the first 2022 Red Sox series in Toronto delivered on its promises of brutality.

Monday: Nate Eovaldi, an ironman by current Red Sox standards, is pulled after just 72 pitches with the bottom of the order upcoming. Four hits ensue, the last a Bo Bichette grand slam off Tyler Danish.

Tuesday: A four-run eighth yields a 5-2 lead — the most runs they’ve scored in more than a week. One out from the finish line, Jake Diekman gives up a three-run homer to George Springer and the Sox lose in the 10th.


(Tanner Houck’s absence was certainly noted.)

Wednesday: Alex Cora returns and brings hope with him.

Thursday: Wait, never mind. Held to four hits, Boston loses, 1-0, on an unearned run via the words “shortstop Christian Arroyo.” (To be fair, Garrett Whitlock followed it with a walk and clean single.) In five chances with a runner in scoring position, the Red Sox don’t get the ball out of the infield.

“We’re doing a better job swinging at pitches in the zone,” manager Alex Cora told reporters after the finale. “We’re not chasing as much.”

The refrain for this 8-12 start has been “we’re close,” and, well, they have been. Both in their oft-mentioned under-the-hood hitting stats, specifically their being ninth in hard-hit percentage, and in seven of their 12 losses being by two runs or fewer.

Positive signs matter when there’s still roughly 90 percent of the season to play. Andrew Benintendi isn’t going to hit .393 for Kansas City no matter how good a teacher all-time Red Sox prospect Michael “Primetime” Coleman is. (Read that linked piece from The Athletic, regardless.)

But these are, of course, the things you say when the signs are all you have. Cora spent most of 2019 saying them, and they never coalesced beyond 84 wins.

It’s been striking to watch the Jays these past two weeks, their starters going six innings in five of the seven games, with Kevin Gausman pitching into the ninth at Fenway Park last Thursday. It’s by design, the Jays having spent big on him and José Berríos this winter while also adding Yusei Kikuchi around blossoming first-rounder Alek Manoah.


They’ve spent years building this, from signing Vlad Guerrero Jr. in 2015 to spending big on Springer last January to sniping Matt Chapman from Oakland in March. This is a plan coming together.

The Red Sox? The only guy here who’s in the ultimate plan might be Trevor Story. Last year was an unlikely miss to the high side. This year isn’t anything yet, but the Sox pitching staff being top 10 (by wins above average) and their offense down near execrable Cincinnati?

That’s quite the route, even if you pegged this was a probable destination.

It is not likely to all remain as such, but — as colleague Chad Finn put it well the other day — it all feels a bit worse when the season began with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers each unable to forge a long-term agreement with the team. Two players who want to be here, who by all accounts the team want to be here, and who frankly have provided most of the few highlights of 2022 to date.

Ben Cherington used to talk about “the next great Red Sox team.” It arrived after he was elsewhere, our most tangible connections to 2018 not named Cora feel like short-timers.


That’s just about impossible to dwell on amid an 8-12 start that has watched like this one has. A .336 OPS from the first baseman — pitchers, for comparison, had a .293 collectively last season — after 20 games? A .629 OPS (22nd of 30 teams) with runners in scoring position.

Using 17 pitchers in 20 games and getting exactly two outings (Eovaldi on Monday, Michael Wacha on Wednesday) of at least six innings. That one was at least predictable given the bloated pitching staff, which will be sticking around to a lesser degree for another month.

Like the daily news, though, there’s always a tomorrow. It’s a point in the year where a 2-5 slog through St. Petersburg and Toronto can be panned for positive signs, and three games in Baltimore remain a chance to catch one’s breath.

Ace John Means is out until the middle of next year, and the Orioles’ version of “we’re pitching better than expected, but not hitting” is a lot less threatening than Boston’s. A couple decent nights and the sun might actually shine again.

The 2022 Red Sox weren’t built as the 2022 Blue Jays were. They were supposed to compete with them, which they did, but Chaim Bloom’s plan is still very much in process. Though the route’s been a surprise, I don’t really think losing five of seven to the division’s best two teams was an unlikely short-term outcome.

Hopefully, the face-melting way it happened will seem a lot more distant after a weekend of delivering on some early promise. If not, I find myself wondering just how much farther off those good feelings of a year ago can feel by the start of May.


And just when a bad start morphs into something, when you’re still building for the future, to act upon.


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