As the Red Sox were playing the Royals in the rain on Thursday night, the scoreboard showed the Astros, Rays, and Jays had all lost.
Those are three of the four teams ahead of the Sox in the American League wild card standings and these days, any little sliver of hope is welcome at Fenway Park.
The Sox did their part to add to it with a 2-0 victory.
The harsh truth of the matter is more Boston sports fans were probably interested in the first Patriots exhibition game than they were in the actual game the Sox played.
But they did what was required by taking three of four from the rebuilding Royals and are now four games out of a playoff spot with 47 games to play.
The odds remain against the Sox, especially with the schedule soon to get much tougher. But the door remains open.
“Just keep grinding, keep going,” manager Alex Cora said. “We won the series; we move on to the next one . . . We’ve just got to keep winning.”
Chris Sale returns to the roster on Friday night to face the Tigers in what will be his first start since June 1. Before he fractured his shoulder blade, Sale was pitching well and the buzz that usually accompanies a Friday night home game should be even louder when he takes the mound.
It’s impossible to know what to expect of Sale after 10 weeks on the injured list, but it should be better than yet another bullpen game.
“We’ve been waiting for this day,” Cora said. “He’s been around us and he feels good.”
Sale’s presence alone should give the team a jolt.
“For me it’s definitely exciting,” Kenley Jansen said. “That’s the one guy, I remember when I signed here, I was excited to see. I saw him for so many years on the other side and I’m beside him now. That’s awesome.
“You see the fighting spirit that he has. Things that people cannot see off the field that I see every day. The fighting spirit he has and the positivity that he brings.”
We’ll have to take Kenley’s word on that one. The Sox were either unable or unwilling to make Sale available to answer a few questions on Thursday, something Clayton Kershaw did before he rejoined the Dodgers after a six-week absence with a sore shoulder.
Outside of the score, Thursday was notable because Trevor Story doubled to center field for his first hit of the season after an 0-for-9 start.
Yes, the ball popped out of the glove of rookie Dairon Blanco, but Story hit it 385 feet to the base of the wall. That moved Triston Casas to third base and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Verdugo.
Story also drew a walk in the sixth inning and felt frisky enough to try a steal of second. He nearly had the base, too, before a review showed shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. was able to get the tag on his leg.
It’s also a positive that the bullpen trio of Josh Winckowski, Chris Martin and Jansen retired the final eight Royals in order, striking out six.
Jansen has converted 26 of 29 save chances and Martin has been near untouchable since coming off the injured list on April 30.
A lockdown bullpen can make a difference if the Sox are still in contention a month from now.
Jansen has made the playoffs every season since 2013. He tested that streak by signing with the Sox after playing for the Dodgers and Braves. But he’s not ready to give it up.
“You have to take it one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time,” he said. “If you can come to the mindset at 2 o’clock and expect to win a ballgame, that’s a great start to our day.
“Just focus on that one game and take care of that one game. Hopefully we all stay healthy. If we can do that, we’ll be in good shape.”