For all the momentum the Red Sox have gathered in the past eight games, they still have a lot of ground to make up to get back into the playoff chase.
The gap between AL East-leading Baltimore got smaller with the Orioles losing to the Athletics in Oakland Sunday, but they still have a 7½-game lead on the Sox.
The Mariners lost to the Angels, but the Sox are still six games back in the wild-card race.
By sweeping the Royals with a 6-0 win Sunday, the Sox have won seven of their past eight games. Over that stretch, Boston hit .291 and outscored its opponents by 25 runs. With the pitching and hitting working in tandem, the Sox feel as if they have a chance to dig out of their hole.
“I feel like if we can just do what we’ve been doing and play well, I know we’ve been playing some teams that maybe aren’t up to par, but if we can get the confidence that we have in that way we’re playing right now, I think that’s important,’’ said catcher David Ross.
The Sox’ next 13 games, starting in Toronto Monday, are all AL East matchups. They’ve struggled in the division this season, going just 16-22, but they see it as a chance to pull themselves back into the mix.
“I think any game’s a good opportunity to gain ground,” said utilityman Brock Holt. “Just trying to go out and win every game and we’ve got some games coming up against division rivals.
“So go out and continue to play like we’ve been and hopefully we can win some games.”
As daunting as it might seem, manager John Farrell said the mood in the clubhouse is confident.
“Just hearing some of the conversation around our team, it’s not anything beyond today, which has been a trademark of this group all last year,” Farrell said.
“We know the position we’re in, but to think beyond today doesn’t really do us much good, and we’re confident we’ll continue that approach as we start up in Toronto tomorrow.”
Going hitless in five at-bats on Sunday left David Ortiz 1 for 17 (.059) coming out of the All-Star break and 6 for 40 (.150) in his past 10 games.
Ortiz didn’t get a ball out of the infield, grounding out five times, including bouncing into a double play in the first inning.
“I think David’s in one of those little stretches right now where — I think we witnessed one earlier in the season — where he’s trying to get some things going,” Farrell said.
He swung at the first pitch in four of his five at-bats and none of his five plate appearances lasted more than three pitches.
“He’s been offering at some pitches early in the count, which might not be characteristic,” Farrell said. “But as he’s gone through this stretch, we’re confident he’ll be back as the hitter we know.”
Rest day coming
Offdays aren’t something Dustin Pedroia is used to. He’s only missed three of Boston’s 98 games this season. But Farrell said he intends to give his second baseman a rest soon.
“We know that he doesn’t like to come out of games and coming off the four days we had off, there might be a time in the next two to three weeks that there might be a day in there,” the manager said.
Holt would spell Pedroia when that day comes. Pedroia was pulled for the last three innings of the final game before the All-Star break.
“That’s kind of where we’ve tried to pick our spots with some rest is just at the end of the game to give him more of a breather,” Farrell said.
Bogaerts, Napoli sit
With the Royals sending righthander Yordano Ventura to the mound, Farrell sat Xander Bogaerts, gave Holt the start at third, and put Mike Carp at first in place of Mike Napoli in order to get another lefthanded bat in the lineup . . . Junichi Tazawa’s quick appearance in the ninth (he fanned Danny Valencia swinging) was because Edward Mujica wasn’t completely warm in the bullpen. Mujica hadn’t pitched since July 11, when he finished out the ninth against the Astros, and Farrell wanted to give the righty some work. “Didn’t want to get Tazawa overextended and we’ve got a couple guys down there where it’s been a while since they’ve come to the mound, including Edward,” he said . . . Outfielder Shane Victorino (2 for 4 with a double) had his first multihit game since May 13 vs. Minnesota and his first double since May 1 vs. the Rays.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.