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At this point, do the Red Sox deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Xander Bogaerts (left) and J.D. Martinez both had big weekends against the Orioles, but the Yankees will provide a tougher test.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The worst is over. The five-week skid is behind them. The Red Sox are repaired and raring for the run toward October.

Well, I think so, anyway.



Most likely, I guess?

All right, I’m convincing no one with that approach, so let’s put it another way: The Red Sox have won three in a row and four of five in advance of their compelling three-game series at Yankee Stadium beginning Tuesday.

It looks like they’re back. Previous hemming and hawing aside, I do believe they are. We just need to see them do it against a better team than the one they just walloped.


Recent reinforcements, including the recall of slider machine Tanner Houck and injury returns from Kyle Schwarber and, most crucially, Chris Sale, mean that the pieces on the roster fit together better than they have at any point in this mostly pleasant season.

The return of Chris Sale should give Boston a boost.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

There’s been a sense, because this team had so many obvious holes, that three-plus months of success would prove the outlier, and that this recent slide — the Red Sox went 12-19 from July 6-Aug. 12 — would turn out to be who they really are.

It did feel at times like that rut was going to be inescapable, especially when certain hapless pitchers had the starting assignment that day. But after those three-plus months of success to begin the season — and some recent signs, developments, and transactions that indicate the good times have returned — I’m vowing to give this group the benefit of the doubt for the rest of the season.

They deserve that much over the remaining 42 games. Even after their downturn for those long few weeks, they’re still 18 games over .500 at 69-51. They’re three games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East entering Monday, having made up two games over the weekend, and currently sit in one of the two wild-card spots. It’s a good place to be as the playoff races accelerate through August toward September.


If there’s any hesitance to declare the Red Sox BACK, it’s that the three-game sweep over the weekend came against those inept Orioles, who aren’t exactly the ideal barometer for measuring success. (I’m not sure the Orioles would be a barometer for the Sea Dogs right now.) But the Red Sox outscored them, 30-5, in the sweep, and did what good teams do: They took care of business, ruthlessly and without suspense, against inferior competition. There really wasn’t anything more to be demanded of them.

The competition gets better now with the Yankees, plagued with injuries but somehow 13-5 since July 27, lurking just 2½ games back of the Red Sox. For the Yankees, it’s about as important as a mid-August series can be. They are 3-10 against the Red Sox this season, and face them just three more times after this week. The Yankees need to win this series, and the Red Sox can’t let them have it.

I do believe the Red Sox will meet this challenge — there’s that benefit of the doubt in action — for a couple of reasons. The reinforcements, as mentioned, have resolved the roster’s most fundamental flaws. Martín Pérez and Garrett Richards have made a combined 44 starts this season, which is a degree of difficulty no manager or coach should have to contend with, or should be expected to contend with.


Now here comes Sale, looking close enough to his vintage ace self, to help save the Red Sox in a different way than he did in the 2018 World Series. There will be hiccups here or there, but if he pitches the rest of the season similarly to how he threw his season debut, the Red Sox will be playing in October, at least for one game, and probably more if he starts the wild card.

Transporting Pérez and Richards to the bullpen is the definition of addition by subtraction … and Sale enters the equation as pretty close to the ultimate addition. The math has changed for the better.

After getting healthy, Kyle Schwarber has fit in nicely with the Red Sox offense.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Schwarber, who returned from a hamstring injury to make his Red Sox debut over the weekend, fit immediately, mashing a pair of doubles and reaching base in four of his eight plate appearances. But the best development for the lineup is that multiple hitters seem to have been jostled from a slumber simultaneously.

Xander Bogaerts went 5 for 12 and hit his first home run of the month in the sweep of the Orioles. J.D. Martinez hit three-run homers in back-to-back games. And most surprisingly, Bobby Dalbec, who had been struggling so badly that he probably should have begun apartment hunting in Worcester, went 5 for 8 with three home runs in the first two games of the series before posting an 0 for 4 Sunday.


I’m skeptical that waiver claim Travis Shaw and his .616 OPS since the start of 2019 will aid the cause, and at this point one has to wonder whether Yairo Muñoz, who has hit in an organization-record 35 straight games, would receive a recall from Worcester even if he matches Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. He warranted one weeks ago when Marwin Gonzalez was still getting chances, and he’d likely be more helpful than Shaw going forward.

But that’s a minor grievance about a roster puzzle in which the pieces finally fit. Sale is back. The Red Sox’ best bats have swung back into action. They recently endured their roughest stretch of this pleasant surprise of a season, but now their roster is at last the best version of itself. Roughing up the Orioles supplied plenty of evidence that they are back. Doing the same to the Yankees will prove it beyond a doubt.

Chad Finn can be reached at chad.finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.