The 1-0, wild-pitch loss a week ago to the Tampa Bay Rays that was supposed to be a gut punch for the Red Sox was never tough to swallow for manager Alex Cora.
The loss appeared to magnify the half-game lead the Rays held over the Sox in the division into an ocean’s distance between the teams. But Cora had the perspective that comes with living through the peaks and valleys along the way to the World Series.
So, after wrapping up a spotless 7-0 homestand with a 15-1 beating of the Royals Thursday afternoon, Cora could look back and grin at the difference a week made as the Sox prepare for a six-game West Coast trip with the best record in the American League.
“I don’t think there’s devastating losses,” Cora said. “I don’t believe in that. Devastating, that’s when you lose the fourth game of the World Series. That’s devastating. But besides that, it’s wins and losses. We just keep getting better, keep pushing.”
Cora looked back at the tribute to Dustin Pedroia at the start of the homestand as an emotional springboard for the Sox’ second-longest winning streak of the season.
“Started with a tribute to No. 15, right?” Cora said. “And we scored 15.”
The Sox wrapped up their ninth series sweep of the season (fifth at home). The run total was a season high, along with the 14-run margin of victory. Their 17 hits matched a season high.
The Sox are a season-high 20 games above .500 heading into series against the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels.
“It’s a good feeling to go out there and sweep the homestand,” Cora said. “We’re in a good place right now and now we’ve got another challenge, right? People are going to say, ‘Well, Oakland, they’re tough on them since 2018.’ We’ve got to keep getting challenges ... because we’re going to keep proving ourselves, and that’s not going to stop.”
Knocking on the door to his first All-Star appearance, Rafael Devers went 3 for 5 with his 20th homer of the season and matched a season high with five RBIs. Danny Santana went 3 for 5 with a homer and five RBIs.
J.D. Martinez (2 for 4) and Kiké Hernández (1 for 3) delivered solo homers, giving the Sox their eighth four-homer game of the season, including three on this homestand.
“I do believe we’re controlling the strike zone a lot better,” Cora said. “There’s not too many swings and misses, especially up in the zone. We’re doing some great things offensively and hopefully that’s going to continue when we get to Oakland.”
Nate Eovaldi gave the Sox seven scoreless innings, striking out six and giving up just five hits with no walks.
“The goal is always to go out there and try to go seven to nine innings,” Eovaldi said. “So any time I can be able to do that and give the bullpen a day, it’s huge.”
In six career appearances (four starts) against the Royals, Eovaldi is 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA.
“He pitched well against the Yankees [last Saturday], he pitched well today,” Cora said. “He’s mixing up his pitches, recognizing what they’re trying to do. I think he threw more off-speed pitches in this one than in the last two, and that’s what he does.”
With 51 wins in the first 82 games, Cora was asked early Thursday to consider the thought of the Sox reaching 100. As nice as it may be to fantasize about, Cora kept the focus narrow.
“I hope we win 100,” Cora said. “Our goal is to win the division. Sometimes we win the division with 93 wins, sometimes with 100. Others with 108. We’ll show up every day and see where you take us. We’re not getting caught up in the whole thing.
“But I think, as a team, we’re focusing on winning series or having positive weeks, and when we struggle, trying to play .500, avoid the big losing streak ... and if we keep doing that, and stay the course it should be a fun summer in Boston.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.