BOSTON -- For three days, Alex Cora and his staff heard a consistent message from the best players in the American League: we know how good you are.
From Astros to Indians to Rangers to A's, they're aware that the Red Sox are capable of going on a serious run, and they didn't just make their feelings known to Cora.
"They're dangerous, man," said Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole. "They're dangerous."
On Friday, in the official start to the second half, the Red Sox took a first step towards proving it. Facing a loaded and motivated Dodgers team with not only the best record in baseball, but revenge on its mind over last fall's World Series, the Red Sox didn't just beat L.A., they pounded it.
The 8-1 victory featured an outstanding start from left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who elicited a Pedro-esque 18 swings and misses against the launch angle poster boys, who chased high fastballs and outstanding changeups like they were trying to capture the world's rarest butterflies.
Offensively, the Sox rode home runs from the three emerging pillars of their offense -- Rafael Devers (of course), Christian Vazquez (why not?), and Xander Bogaerts (it's his team now).
And just like that, they stayed on a roll after winning five of six to end the first half. For one game, anyway, it looked like those All-Stars knew what they were talking about.
"I think that was the coolest thing in the All-Star Game, how many people in that clubhouse still believe in us," Cora said. "I don't know if they really like it or not, but they let us know how good we are. If we forgot about that, the three guys that were there on the coaching staff, the players reminded us of that, so that was the cool thing about the All-Star Game.
"They were like, your run is coming," Cora added. "They know we're very talented, and for how positive it is, probably like hopefully it doesn't happen, but it was good to hear from other people."
A run wouldn't be unprecedented. The 2017 Cubs entered the break two games under .500 and were then the best team in baseball the rest of the way en route to 93 wins and a berth in the NLCS. Last year's Dodgers, meanwhile, followed their World Series loss by starting 16-26 before ripping off 43 wins in their next 63 games to take control of the NL West en route to their second consecutive NL pennant.
The Red Sox have the talent to mimic either of those teams, especially if they add another arm. Their offense has turned into one of the best in the game, and that's without Andrew Benintendi or Mookie Betts really hitting his stride yet.
It turns out it wasn't a night for making up ground, as every other American League wild-card contender either won or was in the process of winning when the Red Sox ended. Then again, the Red Sox don't need to concern themselves with the Rays, Indians, A's, and Rangers so much right now as simply pile up wins, at which point the playoff race will sort itself out.
The task in front of them won't be easy, though. They open the second half with the 60-win Dodgers shortly before embarking on a murderous 14-game stretch against only the Yankees and Rays that will carry them into August and should go a long way towards shaking out their playoff fate.
"Hopefully we get hot for those couple weeks," Bogaerts said. "I know it's a long time to be hot, but it's not impossible.
"Starting off at home is a good way to get momentum. Throughout my years here, we've played good at home.
"We have to come out aggressive because we know these guys are one of the best in the game. Obviously, they're going to come here and try to beat us pretty bad for last year. I think it was a good way to start."
It certainly was. Maybe the All-Stars encouraging Cora all week were on to something.
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