RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Can Red Sox' offense help salvage their season?

RED SOX INSIDER

If it wasn't already clear, the Red Sox will go as far as their offense takes them.

That's meaning no disrespect to All-Star right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who pitched into the seventh inning for the fifth time on Wednesday. And it's not to disparage the return of ace Chris Sale, who should provide a boost when he takes the mound for the first time in two years on Saturday. It also doesn't mean that closer Matt Barnes can continue to look lost, either.

But if the Red Sox are going to extricate themselves from the hole they've dug since the All-Star break, they'll need more nights like Wednesday.

OK, maybe not exactly like Wednesday. Their 20-8 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays was extreme, producing the kind of offense a team might see once a decade.

But combined with Sunday's eight-run output vs. the Toronto Blue Jays, it suggests that perhaps the Red Sox are closer to turning a corner than we think, led by the bats that were always going to be their strength.

This one was a bloodbath. J.D. Martinez recorded four hits and reached base six times. Hunter Renfroe added three hits and four RBIs. Bobby Dalbec drove in five. Xander Bogaerts hit his first home run of August. The Red Sox pounded 19 hits, drew nine walks, and scored multiple runs in five innings.

It was exactly the kind of laugher they required after a string of demoralizing blown leads and walk-offs.

 

"I think these last couple of games, we've been kind of turning it on," Bogaerts said. "A lot of the guys that were kind of not playing as well are starting to get their groove back, get their swing back."

The Red Sox have struggled in virtually every facet of the game during the 2-10 stretch that threatened to derail their season. The starters haven't provided much length. The relievers haven't provided much depth. The offense has stagnated, particularly with runners on base, while the baserunning has bordered on the bewildering and the defense has featured as many mental errors as physical ones.

The starters are what they are, which is hopefully improved by the return of Sale and the insertion of Tanner Houck. The relievers are worn down. The infield defense isn't great, and neither catcher has excelled against opposing base stealers.

Tomase: Matt Barnes is wilting from overuse, and Red Sox know it

The one group that can compensate for all of the above is the offense. When the Red Sox are clicking, the attack is relentless. Remember the early days of the season, when they boasted a team batting average 50 points above league average? It has been a while since they caught the rest of the league by surprise with their contact-based attack. But maybe it's coming back. They only hit one home run on Wednesday, and it came off a position player.

They instead stroked seven doubles and two triples, keeping the line moving until 20 men had crossed home plate.

"Since we left Detroit, although the results weren't there, we're playing better," manager Alex Cora said. "The two comebacks and all that, it makes it worse, but take a look at everything that is going on, this whole thing with men in scoring position, it has to change, right? It has to come back to normal. I'm not saying we're going to hit .400, but we're not going to hit .180."

The Red Sox went 12 for 24 (.500) with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, perhaps unlocking the one part of their offense that has most consistently frustrated them for the last month. It hasn't been a lack of baserunners so much as a failure to drive them in.

"What we're doing offensively, I can say we're giving ourselves chances, putting runners in scoring position, but we have to do the job," Cora said. "What was going on for three weeks, that's not who we are. We know that. And we're going to keep getting better. One hit in three weeks with men at third, less than two outs, that's not the norm. We have to get more hits in those situations."

For one night, anyway, he had no reason to worry. The Red Sox teed off and waltzed to an easy victory. Now comes the hard part -- following it up in Thursday's finale. They'll need the bats to lead the way.