The Boston Red Sox are still two games under .500 and 9 1/2 games back in the American League East with Memorial Day weekend just a few days away.
However, there’s more momentum and good vibes around Alex Cora’s team right now than there has been at any point during the 2022 season. With a resounding 16-run effort Tuesday night in Chicago, the Red Sox have won six in a row and 10 of 13.
It was just a little more than two weeks ago when they were 10-19 and last place in the American League East — two games behind the lowly Baltimore Orioles for fourth place. Now, the Red Sox have climbed out of the basement and are just 2 1/2 games behind Toronto for the third wild-card spot.
How have they done it? Here’s a definitive ranking of the seven biggest reasons for the Red Sox turnaround.
7. Alex Cora shaved his beard — Does a man’s facial hair have anything to do with how other men play baseball? Of course not. But Boston is 10-3 since Cora ditched the scruff.
6. The schedule has gotten softer — Not completely soft, mind you. The Red Sox made the White Sox look like a Triple-A team Tuesday night, but that’s a Chicago team with a lot of talent. However, Tony La Russa’s team has yet to reach expectations, and Boston took advantage in the series opener. And yes, they get credit for taking two of three from a very good Houston team. Where the Red Sox have really taken advantage is winning six of seven against Atlanta, Texas and Seattle, three clubs a combined 16 games under .500. Boston must keep the gas pedal down. After two more with Chicago, they go home to host Baltimore and Cincinnati before going to Oakland. Those are three of the worst teams in baseball with a combined .366 winning percentage.
5. Nick Pivetta is on a heater — The young right-hander’s start to the season mirrored the team’s struggles. The club lost his first five starts, and he allowed 18 runs in 20 2/3 innings. Since May 7, he has a 1.61 ERA and the Sox have won three of his four starts. He’s working deep into games, too, taking some of the burden (or risk) off the bullpen.
4. Rafael Devers continues to be an MVP candidate — Trevor Story is getting most of the attention, and rightfully so, but Devers actually leads baseball in wRC+ (276, league average is 100) since May 10. Only Mookie Betts has provided more wins above replacement in the same span. Just three AL hitters have a higher batting average than Devers, who is hitting .337 after going 27-for-63 since May 7.
3. Bullpen settling in — There are definitely still questions about the back end of the Boston bullpen. Getting to the late innings, though, hasn’t been a problem lately. Jake Diekman, Hirokazu Sawamura, Matt Strahm, John Schrieber and Austin Davis are all averaging at least 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings over the last two innings. Among the four of them, they’ve allowed just one earned run in 24 1/3 innings.
2. The supporting staff has come alive — Kiké Hernández was onto something when he credited the Red Sox hitters outside of Devers, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts for the recent turnaround. Franchy Cordero has made the most of his second chance, eliminating some of the swing and miss that has dogged his big league career to this point and is slugging .486 in the last 13 games. The hits are falling in for Christian Vazquez, who is hitting .351 in the same span. And don’t be surprised if Alex Verdugo starts coming alive; he’s hitting the ball hard and isn’t striking out a ton but still isn’t seeing the results. That should change soon. Regardless, the days of six easy outs in the Boston batting order look like they’re behind the Red Sox.
1. Trevor Story looks like, well, Trevor Story — It took about a month or so, but Story looks like the player Boston believed it was signing when inking him to a long-term megadeal out of the lockout. Story’s run-production numbers in the last 13 games are insane. Since May 10, no one has driven in more runs than Story (23), and his eight home runs are tied with Aaron Judge for the most in that time frame. His batting average is up 37 points, and he added more than 200 points to his OPS in the last 13 games. The surge has propelled him beyond the other big-name, high-money infield free agents who signed during the offseason as it pertains to early-season production.