RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: A perfect homestand portends to a great summer at Fenway

RED SOX INSIDER

The Red Sox just finished their best homestand in years, a perfect 7-0 run through the Yankees and Royals that resembled one big Earl Campbell stiff-arm to paydirt.

A week that began with the Sox trailing the Rays by a half game in the AL East ends with them up a season-best 3.5 games. They won close games and blowouts, they won with occasionally solid starting pitching and a tremendous bullpen, they delivered highlight-reel defensive plays and took the outs that were in front of them.

It was a pristine week of baseball, and it's worth exploring how we got here as the Sox head west for three with the A's over Fourth of July weekend.

It actually started with a brutal loss. Last Thursday, the Red Sox closed out a three-game series in Tampa first by blowing a no-hitter in the eighth and then by suffering a 1-0 loss on a walk-off wild pitch by closer Matt Barnes. The bullpen's only loss in 13 decisions this month left a mark, and manager Alex Cora knew it, because he opened his postgame press conference by declaring how talented the Red Sox are and reminding fans -- and maybe even his own team -- that "it's going to be a fun summer in Boston."

 
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Far from demoralized, the club felt energized, particularly by the performance of starter Nick Pivetta in a hard-fought loss.

"I think I touched on it my start before with Nick had thrown the 6 2/3 innings no-hit ball against the Rays, we didn't win that game but I fully believe that set us up for this whole series, this whole home stretch," said Thursday's winner, Nathan Eovaldi. "He threw the ball so well and the Yankees came in and we were able to beat them and then the Royals. We've been playing well all around, good baseball. The starting pitchers have been throwing the ball well, the relievers have been coming in and slamming the door and then the defense has been great and our offense -- you can't say enough about how great they are."

Speaking of emotional boosts, they got another one in last Friday's opener against the Yankees on Dustin Pedroia night. With Fenway Park banged out for the first time all season, the Sox honored the retired second baseman with visits from pro wrestler Ric Flair and former teammates, including Jacoby Ellsbury. They also provided scoreboard tributes from a hospitalized David Ortiz and former broadcaster Don Orsillo, among others.

When they finished the week with a 15-1 thrashing of the Royals six games later, Cora couldn't help but notice the symmetry.

"It started with a tribute to No. 15, right? And we score 15 in the last game of the homestand," he said. "That night was special. That night brought energy to the place. I know we've been having fun on Fridays here. It's a packed house, it's loud and it's fun. But just watching him out there and seeing the videos and all of that, I don't know if that has to do with the way we played but I think it was a good way to start it and today was a great way to end it."

Whether it was Pedroia, the presence of the Yankees, or the arrival of nice weather, the weekend sweep of the Bombers kickstarted a run of fan interest that has Fenway feeling like home again.

As attendance has increased, so has the team's winning percentage. After playing in front of barely 33,000 fans total over three games in Tampa with first place on the line, the Red Sox returned home to a season-high crowd of 36,869. They effectively matched that attendance the next night, and it's no coincidence that since COVID restrictions on attendance were lifted at the end of May, the Red Sox have gone 12-4 at home.

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"They're making a difference," Cora said of the fans. "Early on it was difficult. I mentioned to you guys when we were in Texas and we came here to play Detroit, it felt like we were flat. It's not that we were flat, it's just that the atmosphere was different. I remember when I went to Camilla's graduation, just watching on TV that Saturday, (Hirokazu) Sawamura with the big strikeout, Adam (Ottavino) with the big strikeout, and they showed emotion against the Marlins. That was amazing watching on TV. Then this past weekend was amazing."

 

The Red Sox became the first team to 51 wins, crossing the official halfway point on a 100-win pace. They'll try to keep the good times rolling in Oakland against an A's team that has traditionally given them trouble. They'll at least enter that series on a roll after the most satisfying week of baseball at Fenway Park since 2018.