CHICAGO — There were several days early in this Red Sox season when it was a better idea to look at the calendar instead of the scoreboard.
Years ago, some of the best advice I received was to resist judging a team until June 1 because it takes at least that long for a group to form its identity.
In football, one game is a chapter of the story. In baseball, it’s a few sentences.
That outlook was tested when the Chicago White Sox swept a three-game series from the Red Sox at Fenway Park earlier this month. The Red Sox scored five runs in the series and extended their losing streak to five games.
They were in last place in the division, 10 games out of first. It looked bleak. Had president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom shuffled the coaching staff a bit nobody would have been surprised.
Now, less than three weeks later, we’re seeing that identity form and it’s one defined by a relentless offense.
The Red Sox humiliated the White Sox, 16-3, on Tuesday night. They are 10-3 since being swept by Chicago and are riding a six-game win streak.
Here’s why you have to trust the calendar: The Red Sox scored 95 runs in their first 29 games. They have scored 95 in the 13 games since.
“Coming into the season we knew we were going to hit,” manager Alex Cora said. “If you look at the numbers today probably we’re a top-three offense in the league.”
He’s right. The Sox are third in the American League in runs, first in batting average and fifth in OPS.
After a day off on Monday, Kiké Hernández hit the first pitch of the game from Dylan Cease over the fence in left field. The Red Sox finished the game with 19 hits, nine for extra bases.
All nine starters had at least one hit and scored one run. All but Xander Bogaerts had at least one RBI.
Trevor Story, the American League Player of the Week, cracked a three-run homer in the first inning. Doubles by Jackie Bradley Jr. and Hernández produced two runs in the second.
Rafael Devers homered leading off the fourth. Then came a six-run fifth inning highlighted by Christian Vázquez’s three-run homer.
Cease, who allowed seven runs in three innings, was so shaken up he thought he must have been tipping his pitches and the Red Sox knew what was coming.
“I don’t really want to say it’s one way or the other without knowing for sure. But it’s possible,” he said.
Joe Kelly, one of the few White Sox relievers who didn’t get in the game, saw it coming.
“That’s a good team with a lot of taIent,” said the former Red Sox pitcher and one of the 2018 champions. “We had a great team [in ‘18] and they still have Xander, and Raffy and J.D. [Martinez] and Alex is one of the best managers around.
“Anybody who thought they were dead in April was underestimating the players there. They went out and got Story, too. That’s a deep lineup. You knew it would be a matter of time before they got going. I know those guys. They were so much better than the way it looked.”
As Cora said a few weeks ago when times were tough, it’s about winning series.
Nick Pivetta gave the Red Sox six innings on Tuesday, allowing three runs. That made it a stress-free night for the bullpen and now Cora has Matt Strahm, Jake Diekman, Austin Davis, and Hansel Robles on full rest and then some.
That’s how you win a series. A blowout in the first game influences the next two. Now Cora, if needed, can be aggressive with how he uses the bullpen on Wednesday with Rich Hill starting.
“That was huge,” Cora said.
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre used to tell his team to focus on five-game pieces of the season — small bites, he called them. Get to .500 then work to get five games over. Then get to 10 and the standings start to take care of themselves,
At 20-22, the Red Sox are closing in on .500 like they’re in a Maserati. This brief trip ends Thursday, then the Sox return home for five games against the Orioles and two against the Reds.
June 1 is approaching and it’ll be time to take stock. You’ll probably like what you see.