The number of homers the Red Sox offense has churned out this season (172) plus the team’s undeniable winning track record (71-17) when they do go deep — versus 18-22 when they don’t — could give the impression this team lives and dies with the long ball.
There are advantages to having a lineup with so many threats to leave the yard.
“It feels like you are always in the game,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “One mistake, you hit it out of the ballpark and we’re right there. That’s good to have.”
But the true strength of the Sox offense is that it isn’t one-dimensional.
“We feel that we can do other things,” Cora said. “I don’t know if the numbers back me up on that, but I feel like even when we’re struggling or we’re not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, we can go the other way, we can hit the ball on the ground, we can move guys over, we can run. So that’s what we are offensively.”
The Sox’ 7-0 win Thursday over the Indians at Fenway Park was an example. They smothered the Indians with a six-run fifth inning, batting around for the second time in as many nights.
Called on in a pinch after Mitch Moreland left the game in the first inning with a left knee contusion, Blake Swihart went 2 for 4 with a two-run double. Xander Bogaerts and Eduardo Nunez each had a two-run double. J.D. Martinez was walked twice and still went 1 for 3 with a run-scoring single. Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
The Sox went 6 for 14 with runners in scoring position. For the series, the Sox went 18 for 42 (.429) with runners in scoring position, their second-highest average in any series this season.
“Like we’ve been saying all along, we can score with anybody in the league and we can do it in different ways,” Cora said. “Today we did a good job putting the ball in play in certain situations. We pick each other up. That’s the most important thing. Just a good win all around.”
They salvaged a split of their four-game series with the Indians, stretching their unbeaten streak to 14 straight series (10-0-4).
In much the same way as the split of their four-game series against the Astros in May, the Sox were able to rally to take the last two games, making a statement against one of the teams that knocked them out of the playoffs the past two years.
Both series had the feel of a playoff preview, Martinez said.
“I just felt like it was a series that could potentially be a playoff series,” Martinez said. “But it’s still the same [regular-season] games right now. Are you playing better competition? Yeah. So that’s what is different about it. You get a first-hand look at their guys.
“It definitely gives you a look, so you kind of have an idea of what they’ve got,” Martinez added. “It doesn’t hurt. It’s not the do-all, tell-all. When you get to the playoffs, it’s a different feel. That’s different.”
David Price’s post-All-Star break dominance continued. He threw eight scoreless innings, holding Cleveland to just three hits and racked up seven strikeouts. In six starts since the break, Price is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA.
His weapon of choice was a back-door cutter he went to 28 times, throwing 20 for strikes with three swings-and-misses.
“It looks like that cutter’s starting from our dugout to the outside part of the plate,” Cora said. “He’s been really, really good with it.”
Price threw 68 of his 101 pitches for strikes but it was all predicated on the cutter, he said.
“If I can continue to throw that pitch the way I’ve thrown it, it makes everything that much better — changeups, fastballs away,” he said. “That’s a staple that I had for a very long time, been away from it, and got it back now.”
Price’s 2.06 career ERA against the Indians is the lowest among active starters. Since 2014, he’s 6-1 with a 1.26 ERA in eight starts against the Indians.
“That’s a lengthy lineup,” said Price (14-6, 3.50 ERA). “They’ve got lineups to lefthanded pitchers and righthanded pitchers and they’re both very deep. So just to go out there and keep them from touching home plate, that’s good.”
The Sox upped their record to 90-39. No other team in baseball has 80 wins.
“It’s impressive,” Swihart said. “Hopefully we can be the first to 100, too.”
It’s just the second time in franchise history that the Sox have had 90 wins before the end of August.
“The whole thing about this, we talk about this ‘W,’ we talk about the series and tomorrow when we go to Tampa,” Cora said. “It’s the same mind-set.”