By the fourth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game, the Red Sox had No. 70, Garin Cecchini, batting third, and No. 68, Alex Hassan, batting sixth — both players making their major league debuts. The Sox also had a rookie in center, a rookie at short, Brock Holt at first, and Jonathan Herrera at second.
Fort Myers in March?
No. Fenway Park in June. And with Jon Lester dominating from the mound, the Green Sox played near perfect baseball in a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
This might have been the best day of the young season at Fenway. The weather was perfect, Lester was spectacular, Holt had four, count ’em four, doubles and reached base five times, and Messrs. Hassan (single on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth) and Cecchini (Wall-ball double in the seventh) stroked their first major league hits.
Hassan, who grew up in Milton, accepted handshakes and congratulations in the clubhouse after the game and acknowledged that his parents were on hand for his big league debut. He looked like he was ready to go to Dairy Queen with his folks.
Joe Hardy Holt, who will be played by Matt Damon when his story goes to the big screen, said, “It was a lot of good luck,’’ as he packed for the team’s trip to Cleveland, Detroit, and Baltimore.
The kids are all right.
“That’s one of the great things about baseball,’’ said Lester (12 strikeouts, one walk, four hits over seven innings). “Seeing those guys get their first hits, I was reminiscing about a lot of firsts, remembering calling Mom and Dad. That’s a good part about the game.’’
It’s all good now. After a 10-game losing streak, the Sox have won seven in a row. Playing the last-place Sons of Tito Francona over the next three days, the Sox have a chance to follow a 10-game losing streak with a 10-game winning streak.
What’s the difference?
“It’s some luck,’’ said shortstop Xander Bogaerts, echoing Holt. “Some good placement of the ball. It’s a matter of things going our way now.’’
“We’re getting contributions from guys up and down the roster,’’ said manager John Farrell.
The best news is that the Sox may be relevant again this summer, a status that was in jeopardy just a week ago. They are back to within two games of .500, and trail first-place Toronto by only six games after a stretch of baseball that reminded us of the 2012 Bobby Valentine Sox.
If this winning streak truly turns the Sox around, can everybody promise not to bite on the phony narrative that the Sox were somehow kick-started by their embarrassing dust-up at Cirque du Trop eight days ago?
The Jonny Gomes-Yunel Escobar, benches-clearing incident represented the nadir (we hope) for the 2014 Sox. It was not a team-building, galvanizing moment. It was not Jason Varitek vs. Alex Rodriguez, circa 2004. There was no dignity when the Sox were grousing about Tampa taking an extra base in the seventh inning of an 8-3 game. It was an indication that the Sox had completely lost their championship ways. They were so frustrated by their losing streak that they forgot they are capable of coming back from a seventh-inning, five-run deficit.
A day later, the Sox dug out of a 6-1 hole in Atlanta and they haven’t lost since. When Farrell was asked to pinpoint the turning point of the last two weeks, he cited the Memorial Day rally in Atlanta.
“That was the jump-start to all this,’’ said the manager. “Now we’re playing with confidence.’’
It helped that the Braves and Rays played terrible baseball against the Sox. Cleveland could do the same. It’s not hard to imagine the Sox arriving in Detroit Friday carrying a 10-game winning streak on the heels of a 10-game losing streak.