The Red Sox woke up Tuesday nine games shy of the official midway point of the schedule, and with so much still to be revealed in this pleasant surprise of a season.
Will their starting rotation — so unexpectedly effective early on but lately a collective tribute to 2011 John Lackey (6.41 ERA, franchise record for curse words caught by NESN cameras) — figure out how to succeed in the post-Spider Tack world?
Will hitters who have labored (Bobby Dalbec, Marwin Gonzalez, Kiké Hernández) become consistent producers now that opposing pitchers can’t turn the baseballs into 100-mile-per-hour physics experiments with each throw?
Will reinforcements arrive — via trade, the injured list, or Worcester — to boost a roster that already has 43 wins, leads the Rays by a half-game entering this three-game series at Tropicana Abandoned Mini-Golf Course, and has proven worthy of faith and investment many times over?
That’s the thing about these Red Sox. They are a resilient lot, possessing one of the most coveted, mysterious, and elusive traits in a ball club: They have a knack for stemming negative momentum and being at their best when trouble has spent a couple of days boiling up.
They fight back, man. The first clue came the first week of the season. Public expectations for this team seemed to fall somewhere between lukewarm and “at least they won’t be as putrid as last season” when they had to rally to finish 24-36.
Those of us who were intrigued by Chaim Bloom’s array of depth-bolstering moves found ourselves on the butt end of a few punch lines after the first series of the season, when the Red Sox were swept by the annually lousy Orioles by an aggregate 18-5 score in three games.
“Sneaky good, you say? Sure, if 24-138 is sneaky good! HAR HAR HAR. We’ll be right back after this short break.” (Cue eight minutes of ads for divorce lawyers, erectile dysfunction pills, and hair-replacement procedures.)
So what did the Red Sox do? Well, here’s what the majority around here thought they’d do: get clobbered by the defending American League champion Rays in the ensuing three-game set at Fenway. What they did do was quite different: They picked up their first win of the season with an 11-2 rout, swept that series, and ripped off nine victories in a row after that 0-3 start.
That ability to rally has been one of their strengths in both a macro and micro sense all season. They won coming from behind in 24 of their 43 wins. Three times they won on a walk-off hit, including in the bookend games of a June 11-14 series with the Blue Jays in which the Red Sox salvaged a split despite losing the middle pair by an aggregate 25-6.
That three-game losing streak to start the season? They still haven’t had one longer, having lost three in a row during two other stretches. They lost one to the Orioles and two to the A’s from May 10-12; they busted out of that mini-slide by winning three straight and seven of their next nine.
More memorably, and more importantly too, they looked like they might be in some trouble when the Astros beat them like their favorite trash can for three straight in Houston May 31-June 2 by an 18-4 combined score. The Red Sox salvaged the fourth game of that series behind a Martín Pérez gem, then went to New York and thumped the Yankees three in a row.
At every turn, Alex Cora and his team have had an answer. That resilience has been their greatest attribute, and it must remain so if they’re going achieve anything of note beyond being a pleasant surprise this season.
The Red Sox looked weary over the weekend against the Royals, losing two of three. Monday’s day off was much-needed. Now they travel south for a fascinating three-game set at Tropicana Abandoned Rave Site. The Rays theoretically could send the Red Sox, with their starting pitching in this curious and concerning state, into a spiral. But these are the occasions when the Red Sox have risen to the challenge again and again this season.
There will be more challenges like this, all summer long. The schedule after the All-Star break is brutal; the Red Sox play eight with the Yankees, seven with the Jays, and three with the Rays over an 18-day stretch starting July 15. That might be a fine window for reinforcements, whether that means the arrival of Jarren Duran, Chris Sale, or someone from outside the organization. Maybe for Duran, who has Jacoby Ellsbury-in-2007 buzz, that time will be sooner.
This much is certain: The Red Sox deserve reinforcements in some way. They’ve been remarkably resilient so far. It would be a shame if expecting them to rise to the challenge again and again became too much to ask.