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BOSTON -- So, what should the folks back home know about these Red Sox as they return to Fenway Park from a six-game trip with a 4-2 record, the team's best start through six games since 2006, when the Sons of Terry Francona went 5-1?
"That we're talented," said Jonny Gomes, one of the 10 newcomers on the team. "That we're on a mission to erase last year.
"We want people to know that these 25 guys in here are going to play the game right for 162, and that's it."
The Red Sox opened the season by taking two of three each from two division rivals, the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, both of whom had their way with the Sox last season: the Yankees winning 13 of 18, the Jays going 11-7. The Sox did not have a winning record against any team in their division in 2012, losing 13 of 18 to the Baltimore Orioles, who arrive here Monday, and splitting 18 games with the Tampa Bay Rays.
"I feel like we're already going to have momentum going to Fenway, playing in front of our fans," third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. "Everyone was already excited about that but to go rolling in like this, 13 runs and Jonny [Lester] going seven shutout innings, is huge."
The early returns suggest that the team's record sellout streak, with a projected expiration date perhaps as soon as Wednesday, might yet have life, as this team is almost daring its fans not to watch:
• Left-hander Jon Lester, who did not win his second game until eight starts into last season and won just nine overall, already owns wins over aces CC Sabathia of the Yankees and R.A. Dickey of the Jays.
• Middlebrooks, counted upon to provide power -- especially in the absence of David Ortiz -- hit three home runs Sunday as the Sox, who had just two homers in their first five games, erupted for six against Dickey and the Jays in a 13-0 rout.
|It's only been six games, but John Farrell has seen a lot to like from his Red Sox.|
"Good Lord, that was about 2,000 feet of homers," Lester said of Middlebrooks, the 26th Sox player to hit three in a game. "He obviously feels good at the plate."
• New closer Joel Hanrahan already has two saves as the anchor of a potential lockdown bullpen that stands in stark contrast to last season's imploding pen that never recovered from the spring training loss of closer Andrew Bailey to a freak thumb injury.
• Rookie left fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. delivered exactly what the Sox were seeking when they broke camp with him in the starting lineup, jump-starting the team with hustle and poise before enduring a tough weekend at the plate in the Rogers Centre.
• Leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury has been a force at the top of the lineup, reaching base multiple times in five of six games, starting all three games in Toronto by reaching base, stealing four bases, hitting a home run and scoring four runs.
• Pushed-aside shortstop Jose Iglesias, whose dreams of a full-time job this season evaporated when the Sox signed free agent Stephen Drew, has played with his usual flair in the field, but complemented his superb glove work with nine hits in the early going, despite missing a game and a half after being struck in the throwing elbow by a pitch Friday night.
• Through six games, the team has yet to commit an error.
"No free outs," Lester said. "Especially in this division, you can't give these teams second chances, third chances. We saw it the other night when [Emilio] Bonafacio had a tough go [allowing three errors Friday at second base]. That leads to runs, leads to big innings, leads to more pitches for your pitchers."
• No Sox starter has given up more than three runs after one full turn through the rotation, and two starts by Lester, who went seven scoreless Sunday.
• The Sox have won even without Ortiz, who begins playing in extended spring training Monday in Fort Myers, or Drew, who is due to join the team Wednesday after playing one more game in Portland. They also have two left-handed relievers, Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow, on the DL, and are awaiting word on John Lackey, who sustained what the club called a strained right biceps in the fifth inning Saturday and underwent an MRI on Sunday.
Ask manager John Farrell how he believes this team should be perceived, and he sounds much like the spot he taped over the winter for NESN describing what to expect.
"That they're going to give effort and energy every time they walk on the field," he said. "They're going to be prepared. They're going to play the game the right way, with an intensity that should work in our favor more times than not. It'll bring us through some challenging moments that will come our way at some point."
Gomes, who helped set the tone for the team's fast start by scoring from second base on an infield hit by Ellsbury in the season opener, looked beyond the obvious highlights of Sunday's win to illustrate what he means about the way this team plays. He brought up what he saw in the ninth inning, with the game long in hand.
"It was the little things, like Salty just chested up three balls in the ninth, up 13-0," Gomes said, referring to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia sacrificing himself to stay with pitches from reliever Clayton Mortensen. "Like [Pedro] Ciriaco making a great play in the hole, spinning, and missed [with his throw], but Salty was right there, backing the play up. The last pitcher [Mortensen] threw a 3-and-2 slider, up 13, pitching like it was zero-zero.
"That's how he plays."
For openers, that's a pretty good calling card. It's early, but the rest of the league may want to take heed.