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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Red Sox go worst to first? Great! Let’s see where they stand down the road

The Red Sox offense has been electric since its three-game hiccup to start the season. On Thursday, Ryan Mountcastle watched Boston's second home run of the day (by Kiké Hernández) reach the seats in the eighth inning.
The Red Sox offense has been electric since its three-game hiccup to start the season. On Thursday, Ryan Mountcastle watched Boston's second home run of the day (by Kiké Hernández) reach the seats in the eighth inning.Julio Cortez/Associated Press

How could we ever have doubted them?

Worst-to-first. In four short days.

We were ready to run the Red Sox out of New England after they were swept by the Orioles. Drubbed, 11-3, Sunday at Fenway. Before playing their fourth game of the season, the Sox walked a line between ridicule and irrelevance, losing three to the Zer-O’s by an aggregate 18-5.

Thursday afternoon at Camden Yards, the Sons of Alex Cora beat those same Orioles, 7-3, to move into a first-place tie with them in the American League East. The Red Sox have won four straight, which did not happen once in their embarrassing 2020 season.

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Are you biting? Are you taking the cheese on these guys?

Not me. Not yet.

The Red Sox will be better than they were last year. That’s an easy call. But what we have seen thus far only validates what the Earl of Baltimore always said: You’re never as good as you look when you win or as bad as you look when you lose.

The Sox have outscored Tampa and Baltimore, 33-12, since Sunday. Swell. Let’s see where they stand after 60 games. Not seven.

What we know thus far: J.D. Martinez, the ultimate millennial baseballer, who evidently can’t hit without his in-game video binkie, is smoking hot out at this hour. Back in his PlayStation comfort zone, J.D. had two more hits Thursday and has a whopping 12 RBI in his first seven games. He has at least one extra-base hit in every game — one of five big leaguers to ever accomplish the feat.

It’s hard to believe any of them did it without the availability of in-game video.

We also know that Christian Vázquez is finally an All-Star caliber catcher, and that Rule 5 pickup Garrett Whitlock looks like the real deal out of the bullpen. Oh, and Eduardo Rodriguez is back after missing the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and myocarditis.

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Eduardo Rodriguez delivers in the first inning of Thursday's win over Baltimore.
Eduardo Rodriguez delivers in the first inning of Thursday's win over Baltimore.Rob Carr/Getty

Also back is Jonathan Papelbon, who made his first appearances on NESN before and after the Camden opener. It’s hard to believe that the last time the Big Galoot pitched for the Sox was the night the music died in Baltimore, September 2011.

Papelbon took all the hard questions after blowing the save that put the Chicken and Beer Sox out of the playoffs. Ever a stand-up guy, he didn’t blame Carl Crawford for misplaying Robert Andino’s walk-off single. Papelbon put the blame on himself, and was taking a second wave of questions when Cooler Adrián González told us that the Sox loss was God’s will.

In his first appearance with Team NESN, Papelbon didn’t mince words when asked about the rule, which debuted last year, putting a runner on second base to start all extra innings.

“Hate it. Stupid. Ridiculous. All of the above,” said the former closer.

After Papelbon, Sox baseball boss Chaim Bloom explained why Tanner Houck was sent back to the minors even though he has 31 strikeouts and a 1.17 ERA in his first 23 major league innings. It turns out that the Red Sox just have too darned many good starting pitchers. In the words of Joe Castiglione, “Can you believe it?”

It’s certainly not like you’d want to bounce the likes of Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, or Martín Pérez to make room for a dazzling young starter.

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Give the Sox credit for this much: We are seven games into the 2021 season and they have not yet used an “opener.” Very un-Tampa of them.

Pitching for the first time in a year and a half, E-Rod submitted a nice five-inning performance and picked up his first win since September 2019. He labored in the first, throwing 26 pitches and surrendering a two-run homer to Ryan Mountcastle on an 0-2 pitch. A solo homer by Pedro Severino gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead in the fourth, but it was short-lived.

The Orioles did Oriole things in the sixth, gifting the Sox a couple of runs thanks to some brutal outfielding by Lord Mountcastle. Rodriguez was credited with the win.

“Today’s story is about Eduardo,” said Cora. “That was very gratifying. I know it was a big day for him and I’m happy that everything went well.”

Matt Barnes and Christian Vazquez react after getting the final out of Thursday's 7-3 win over the Orioles.
Matt Barnes and Christian Vazquez react after getting the final out of Thursday's 7-3 win over the Orioles.Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Whitlock, Matt Andreise, and Matt Barnes (three K’s in the ninth) handled the final four innings, and the Red Sox will enjoy their four-game winning streak for 48 hours before Richards takes the ball in Baltimore Friday night.

Richards is the new guy who was routed in his first Sox start Sunday, then told Bostonians, “It’s three games into the season. Kind of an early panic button.”

Wisdom. From the mouths of meatball artists . . .


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.