BOSTON -- A few reflections on a team trying to build on a 7-3 homestand, its best of the season, as it heads to Detroit for a three-game series against the Tigers, followed by their first trip to New York and a short two-game set with the Yankees.
-- There has been a schizophrenic aspect to the Sox season so far. There have been a dozen games in which they’ve scored seven or more runs. They’re 11-1 in those games.
But there have been even more games, 15, in which they’ve scored three runs or fewer. They’re 3-12 in those games, which comprises almost 43 percent of the schedule to date.
The pitching staff has had similar swings: 11 games in which they’ve allowed 7 or more runs, with a record of 4-7, and 14 games in which they’ve allowed three runs or fewer, with a record of 9-5.
The homestand reflected those swings: five games in which they scored six or more runs, four games of three runs or fewer. But in five of the games the Red Sox had 10 hits or more, and had just one game in which they had fewer than eight.
-- Red Sox pitchers, bolstered by strong starts by Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield and two more glittering outings by Jon Lester, had five games in which they held the opposition to three runs or fewer
-- Their patience at the plate was in evidence during the homestand. In eight of the games they drew four or more walks, and had four games in which they drew six or more free passes. The Sox have three batters in the top 10 in the AL in percentage of fewest swings at pitches: Marco Scutaro is fourth (33.1 percent), J.D. Drew is fifth (35 percent) and Kevin Youkilis is ninth (36.5 percent). Scutaro is second in the league in fewest pitches chased out of the zone (15.5 percent).
-- Scutaro, Victor Martinez, and Dustin Pedroia rank second, third and fourth in the league in percentage of swings that make contact: 96 percent, 94.2 percent, and 93.8 percent, respectively, according to FanGraphs. Adrian Beltre has the highest percentage of swings at pitches out of the zone on the Sox: 36.4 percent.
-- The Red Sox, who hit just .259 in April, are batting .293 for the first dozen days of May. Five Sox players are batting .300 or better for the month, the most encouraging name on that list being David Ortiz, whose line for May -- .310/.344/.655/.999 -- should put the brakes on the release/trade talk, though we’re talking about just 32 plate appearances. Drew has been the team’s hottest hitter in the month, batting .450 (18 for 40), while Victor Martinez, though batting just .250 so far in May, has knocked in a team-best dozen runs.
-- Red Sox pitchers had five games in which they issued three or fewer walks on the homestand, but in the 14-3 loss to the Yankees last Saturday, they walked 10. That was the most walks they’ve allowed in game since walking 11 Royals in Kansas City last Sept. 21.
But overall, a staff that has been known in the John Farrell era for better-than-average control is improving. After walking 5 or more batters in the first 17 games, the Sox have had just three such games in the last 18. And in the four games since the 10-walk horror, they have walked a total of 8 batters
-- The defense is stabilizing. After allowing 9 unearned runs in their first 11 games, the Sox have allowed just 4 in the last 24 games.
-- The defense on the right side of the infield has been spectacular. Neither second baseman Pedroia nor Youkilis have committed an error. Youkilis holds the major league record for consecutive games without an error (238), while Pedroia has already made at least a dozen plays that have been highlight-reel quality while making all the routine plays. So much for having trouble adjusting to a new double-play partner, Marco Scutaro; he has already turned 25 double plays, while Scutaro has had a hand in 20.
-- The Sox also have made significant progress in slowing down the opposition running game. After allowing 36 steals in 37 attempts through the season’s first 16 games, the Sox have caught 8 of their last 16 base-runners attempting to steal.
-- Could Josh Beckett’s desire to keep opponents from taking liberties on the basepaths have had a negative impact on his ability to get hitters out? Pitching coach Farrell said Beckett needed to make an adjustment in his balance point, especially when using the slide step, which pitchers employ to keep baserunners from taking big leads. “That can cause some of the havoc we’re trying to correct,’’ Farrell said the other day.
In his first four starts, base-runners were 9 for 9 in stolen-base attempts; in his last three, there has been just one unsuccessful attempt, but he has given up 19 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings. Back spasms shelved Beckett for at least a start, so we’ll have to wait and see what adjustment he makes.
-- Terry Francona already has used 26 different batting orders, and with Mike Cameron looking like he’ll be back for the Yankee series, that number will go up.
-- The Sox swept the Tigers in three games on their only visit to Detroit last season, and won three out of four there in 2008.