Red Sox steadily gaining confidence
July, 22, 2014
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com
TORONTO -- From worst to first to worst to what?
Good question. Anyone pretending to know where this Boston Red Sox season is taking them has long since forfeited a good deal of credibility, the Sox having already run the latest forecasts of their demise through the shredder.
“That’s why they play one hundred and sixty-two,” Jonny Gomes said, dragging out each word, after the Sox rocked the Toronto Blue Jays for season highs in hits (18) and runs in a 14-1 demolition of the home team Monday night in Rogers Centre.
“Not 16 games, not 40 -- you go for six months and you go like this,” said Gomes, his hand rising and falling like the SkyScreamer at Six Flags New England. “It takes 162 to figure this damn thing out.”
Which raises the following question: Has anyone checked with Brock Holt’s dad to see if he placed a bet with London bookmakers that his son would become a Red Sox cult hero before his 26th birthday?
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesAfter setting the Red Sox's homer barrage in motion, Stephen Drew got a hug from Mike Carp.
Holt hadn’t heard about the wager Rory McIlroy’s dad had made 10 years ago, predicting that the lad from northern Ireland would win the British Open by age 25, collecting a handsome sum when McIlroy went wire-to-wire last weekend.
“Actually, my dad’s not a betting man,” said the pride of Stephenville, Texas, who in addition to knocking out his usual two hits made a spectacular catch in which he pinned himself against the right-field wall like a butterfly in a lepidopterist’s display case.
“He just enjoys watching me play,” Holt said. “I’m sure they were having a good time watching back home.”
As if the catch wasn't spectacular enough -- center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. screamed when Holt hit the wall and held onto the ball, Holt saying of the reaction, “that fired me up” -- it was made even more impressive by the fact he made the play in the home fifth, just after the Sox had pinned a six-spot on the Jays to take a 14-1 lead behind John Lackey.
You expected Holt to let up?
“That wall gave a little bit better than the cement wall in Fenway that I landed on a few weeks ago,” he said. “That’s the first time I’ve kind of crashed into one. But no trouble. Just dust yourself off, get up, throw the ball in and get ready for the next one.”
Besides, this winning thing hasn’t exactly been a staple of this season for the Red Sox. Twelve games under .500 on July 8, the Sox have won four straight since the All-Star break, five in a row overall, and eight of their past nine. Monday night, they embarrassed a Blue Jays team that was riding high just six weeks ago -- 14 games over .500 on June 6 -- and is 14-25 since.
Back then, the Jays led the majors in runs and home runs and were the ones bashing teams into submission. But with their middle-of-the-order hitters on the DL (Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind), they’ve been on the receiving end of the punishment.
The Sox hit four home runs in a game for the first time this season, Stephen Drew improbably touching off the power display with a three-run homer in the third off Jays starter Drew Hutchison.
Reliever Brad Mills, pitching for the first time for the Jays in nearly three years (he made a cameo appearance with Oakland earlier this season), didn’t exactly make folks regret his prolonged absence. David Ortiz hit a Mills pitch onto the hitter's background in dead center field for a two-run homer in the fourth, then mashed another two-run shot in the fifth. Mike Napoli made it back-to-back long balls with his 12th of the season.
Drew’s teammates call him “Dirt,” but the Sox shortstop’s name has been dragged through the mud for the horrific slump with which he tardily began the season, having held out for a long-term deal that never materialized.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesMike Napoli, who homered Monday, said the Red Sox are focused on winning games, not their record.
One hundred or so at-bats into the season, Drew finally looks like he’s coming out of it.
“You could see it coming,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “We all know how he jumps in mid-stream. His first 60 at-bats were probably his spring training. But you could see his timing getting better. The defense has always been there, but the offense is coming.”
Drew is not oblivious to the heat he has taken, but if it has taken any kind of psychic toll, he keeps it well hidden. He went through a similar trial last season, dealing with concussive symptoms that were worse, he said Monday night, than he previously let on.
“You guys know me, I don’t sit there and read things,” he said. “I just try to stay on an even keel, and see what happens.
“I’m starting to feel comfortable. It takes a little time. You can’t explain it. These guys [my teammates] can tell you. That’s why we have spring training. Even though we hate it, it’s beneficial.”
We’re way past spring, of course. Tuesday night, the Sox will play the 100th game of their season. They will have 62 left after that. They remain five games under .500, with a library stack of teams still ahead of them.
“We’re not worried about that,” Napoli said. “We’re going forward. We’re playing some pretty good ball right now.”