CHICAGO — Rewind to the early days of May.
The nadir of the Red Sox’ awful start to the season arrived on May 6-8, a three-game sweep at the hands of the White Sox in which the offense managed just five runs — and no homers — over 28 innings. On Tuesday night, a reunion of the teams underscored just how far the Red Sox have come since.
A recently explosive Red Sox offense continued its two-week rampage with a 16-3 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field that included a season-high four homers. Before White Sox starter Dylan Cease recorded an out in the second inning, the Red Sox had already scored six runs against their pale rivals in hosiery, one more than they managed in that entire three-game series in Boston.
“Offensively, that was impressive, relentless,” said manager Alex Cora. “They didn’t give at-bats away.”
It took no time for the Red Sox to make clear their bad intentions. Kiké Hernández ambushed Cease’s first pitch of the game — a 96-mile-per-hour fastball — and ripped it into the stands in left-center for his second homer of the year. The blast represented a prelude.
Trevor Story continued his surge with a two-out, three-run homer against Cease, putting the Sox ahead, 4-0. The blast was Story’s eighth in his last 12 games and gave him 27 RBIs in May.
“He’s doing an amazing job doing damage in the zone,” said Cora.
Back-to-back doubles by Jackie Bradley Jr. and Hernández to open the second put the Red Sox ahead, 5-0, and they manufactured another run in the third to take a 6-0 lead and bring Cease’s evening to a quick conclusion.
The starter’s departure did not stall his opponents. The Red Sox tacked on four more runs in the fourth — an inning highlighted by a Rafael Devers homer to left-center, his 10th of the year — against relievers José Ruiz and Bennett Sousa to take a 10-0 lead, then pushed across six more runs in the fifth off of Sousa and Matt Foster to claim a 16-2 advantage.
The unrelenting offense did not merely provide Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta with a cushion; it conferred upon him an entire mattress store. The righthander gratefully accepted the lavish provision, expressing his appreciation by making swift work of the White Sox in the early innings to get his team racing back to the plate.
Pivetta sailed through three perfect innings. By the time he got touched for a double and two-run homer by José Abreu in the fourth, the Sox had put 10 runs on the board. Pivetta, coming off a complete-game victory in his most recent outing against the Mariners, pumped strikes to maneuver quickly through the free-swinging White Sox lineup.
Pivetta (3-4) logged six solid innings, allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out five and walked two. Pivetta, who had an 8.27 ERA while walking 13 in 16⅓ innings in April, now has a 2.10 ERA with a 30-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32⅓ innings in May.
“I just focused on getting guys back in the dugout as quickly as possible,” said Pivetta.
Yet in contrast to his complete game, Pivetta was a facilitator rather than a headline attraction on Tuesday. All nine Red Sox starters collected at least one hit, eight drove in at least one run, and seven had multiple hits. J.D. Martinez (4 for 5, three runs) and Christian Vázquez (3 for 5, HR, 4 RBIs) led the way on a night when the Sox had a season-high 19 hits, while Vázquez and Story (2 for 5, HR, 4 RBIs) each drove in four runs. In his last five games, Story is 8 for 21 with six homers while driving in 17 runs, the most RBI for a player over a five-game run since 2013.
How to explain the drastic reversal of the Red Sox’ offensive performance? A couple of hours before the start of Tuesday’s game, the coaches detoured during their hitters’ meeting from the typical pre-series dissection of an opposing team’s pitching staff to explore that subject.
A team that spent most of April swinging at pitches within a couple zip codes of home plate — the Sox swung at a league-high 33.0 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone — had tightened that mark to a middle-of-the-pack 29.1 percent, 15th in the big leagues. That discipline had served as the basis of an offensive explosion, with the Red Sox averaging 6.6 runs in the 12 games entering Tuesday.
In the eyes of the Red Sox, that transformation merited recognition.
It remained so on Tuesday, as the Red Sox extended their winning streak to six while improving to 20-22 — closing on .500, with aspirations of using that mark as a springboard back into contention.
“Obviously we had a lot of work to do to get to the point we’re at right now,” said Cora. “[The players] did an amazing job canceling the noise, because it was loud. It was very loud. We understand the process. We understand that it’s 162 [games], and that we have a good baseball team. We’re working very hard to get to the next step. We’re almost there, almost reset the season. We still believe we have a good team and we can compete with the big boys in this division and obviously the league. Just little steps — keep winning series, keep doing that, and the rest will take care of itself.”