So how different do we feel about the Boston Red Sox today?
The return of Chris Sale, the belated arrival of Kyle Schwarber, even the unexpected hot streak of Bobby Dalbec -- are these the signs of a team on the rebound? Or did the club simply benefit from a weekend feat of Oriole a la Commode?
We'll have a better idea once the Red Sox visit New York on Tuesday for three games in two days vs. the Yankees, but after the most uplifting series in weeks, it at least feels possible that they're turning a corner.
They swept the Orioles on Sunday with a 6-2 victory, but that's hardly the point. Everyone is beating the O's. It's more about the injection of energy they received when Sale won his season debut on Saturday and Schwarber followed with his first two hits in a Red Sox uniform on Sunday.
A club in desperate need of reinforcements can finally lean on some legitimate ones, and plenty of time remains not only to secure a wild card berth, but even to catch the Rays atop the AL East. If the Red Sox win Tuesday's doubleheader opener, they'll be the third team in the AL to 70 victories. They're very much alive.
"I mean, I feel really good the way we are right now," said starter and winner Eduardo Rodriguez. "We just have to go there and try to win the series and keep moving forward."
They feel particularly energized after the events of the weekend. The rotation swap of Tanner Houck and Sale for Martin Perez and Garrett Richards is already paying dividends. Since making the switch in Toronto, Red Sox starters have posted a 2.36 ERA in 34.1 innings. Each starter has completed at least five innings, allowing manager Alex Cora to scale back his bullpen usage.
A Red Sox rotation built around Sale, AL pitching WAR leader Nathan Eovaldi, and a resurgent Rodriguez (1.10 ERA in his last 3 starts) is one that can impact October, with support from Houck and Nick Pivetta. There's even a possibility that Cora gets something out of Perez and Richards in the bullpen.
"I feel good about the five," Cora said. "As a whole, as a pitching staff, we're in a much better position today than we were 10 days ago. It's not taking away from Garrett and Martin. Actually, they improve our bullpen with their stuff, which is great."
It's not just the pitching. The offense, mired in a slump for most of July and the start of August, has shown legitimate signs of life since a 9-8 loss to the Blue Jays last Sunday. The Red Sox erupted for outbursts of 20 and 16 runs in the span of a week, and they've scored at least six runs in five of their last seven games.
The addition of Schwarber should only help, since he provides a left-handed presence in the middle of the order who works the count and sees pitches, a dimension the Red Sox have lacked.
"I'm a big believer in trying to do something each and every day to help the team win," Schwarber said. "If it's in the batter's box, out on defense, or in the clubhouse. Anything like that, anything I can do. If it piles up to more than that, great."
The Red Sox added more depth on Sunday by signing old friend Travis Shaw, who had been cut by the Brewers after hitting just .191. The left-handed Shaw could join the first base mix, though it's worth noting he has been a .191 hitter since the start of 2019, so maybe there's nothing left in the tank.
"We're going to use him the right way," Cora said. "I think he gives us more weapons to maneuver over nine innings. We can pinch hit, we can platoon, we can do a lot of things with him."
Of course, they might not want to touch Dalbec. His streak of four straight multi-hit starts ended with Sunday's 0 for 4, but after struggling all year to make contact or leave the park, Dalbec hit .600 over a five-game stretch with three homers and 12 RBIs.
The Red Sox have been desperate to lengthen their lineup. Before the season, they envisioned the lower third of the order at least hitting home runs. Maybe Dalbec resurrects that threat.
They have Monday off before playing two in Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. The Yankees should serve as a much better measuring stick than the O's, but after two lost weeks, at least the Red Sox have reasons for optimism.