BOSTON — The Red Sox swept the Baltimore Orioles in three straight shutouts at Fenway Park on Sunday. They outscored the O’s 17-0. Their pitching staff is throwing the ball as though they can’t be stopped.
And while it’s too little, too late for now, the Red Sox might just be the real deal in 2016.
“(Winning has) given us a lot of hope for next year,” interim manager Torey Lovullo said Sunday before Boston’s 2-0 win. “It’s given us a lot of confidence internally. It’s given each player confidence individually to say we’re ready to turn the page and contend for a championship next year. All along, we have not overlooked today’s game, and that’s a hard balance at times. And that’s just a tribute to these young players, and the veteran players.”
The final stretch has been almost a complete 180 from where the Red Sox were at the end of this season’s All-Star Break. They’ve gone 31-22 since July 30, and Sunday’s win gave them a half-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for fourth place in the American League East. And while that’s certainly not what they were striving for, it’s made for a good change of pace that they’ll want to continue.
“This clubhouse is a lot of fun,” catcher Blake Swihart said after the game Sunday. “We’re playing for each other, playing for the fans. This clubhouse right now is pretty awesome to be around, and it just makes playing the game that much easier.”
Even Boston’s lackluster rotation has pitched consistently well in the second half. Together, they’ve put up a 2.83 ERA in 37 outings since Aug. 18.
“I think they found a comfort level,” Lovullo said. “I think they’re on the mound expecting to make pitches rather than just worry about throwing strikes. I think some of the new guys … are kind of coming into their own, are finding comfort, being familiar with the American League hitters and then just overall understanding what their role is, as our team is trying to set forth a tone to win as many games as possible. They’ve accepted the challenge, and they’ve set the tone.”
Of course, the Red Sox went into this season with solid World Series odds, too, so nothing is a guarantee. They also definitely have work to do in the offseason, mostly concerning the rotation and the bullpen.
But the pieces from this past offseason have finally clicked, and the team has a lot more confidence going into 2016.
“Next year, I think there’s going to be some eye-opening things happening,” Swihart said.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images