In two nights, the Red Sox show what they are capable of at the right time


Red Sox

With a flexible schedule over the next two weeks, a warming-up team can undo some early-season damage.

Trevor Story’s third home run on Thursday night, an eighth-inning three-run shot, was the exclamation point of a game the Red Sox won despite trailing, 4-0, in just two innings. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

REMARK

Wednesday, a two-hit Nick Pivetta. Thursday, a three-home run game from Trevor Story. Hope isn’t just Rhode Island’s state motto, a reminder that doesn’t come too soon.

If it wasn’t as sweet as a hot Olneyville weiner all on its own, pick two guys who thought they needed it more as the Sox sank into April. Pivetta had a lackluster spring and an ERA north of 6.00 two weeks ago. History hasn’t really had a spring and wasn’t hitting .200 as recently as Sunday.

Now they have something to rely on. They all do.

“We as a team struggled at first, but I think everyone really got it,” Thursday’s winning pitcher Tanner Houck told reporters after pitching four blank innings to save Rich. Hill, who is barely out of second.

It had been a year since JD Martinez hit three homers at Baltimore’s less-maligned Camden Yards last April, but nearly four since Rick Porcello turned the Red Sox’s last full game at Fenway Park – Aug. 3, 2018, a game where he only needed 86 pitches for a hit, and where Alex Cora never even got to play right-handed because Cora was ejected in the first inning.

“The path [Pivetta] looked at me, I was like, ‘I’m going to stay away. He could kill me,” Cora joked to reporters Thursday about letting him go 112 against the Astros. “He had that look. He had it.

If only it was the 2018 rotation, where the presumed No. 3 guy at the start of the year already had a Cy Young. If only their game close to the Boston double in the past 48 hours – Steve Pearce had a three-home run game that day before Porcello’s 2018 gem – was a big sign.

Well. While Team 2022 will never feel like a plan coming to fruition, we’re starting to see a reasonable facsimile of a contender in the modern game.

Since being swept by the White Sox, the Red Sox have won six of nine. Rafael Devers (16 for 38, 11 extra hits), Story and JD Martinez (4 for 5 on Thursday a day after his 18-game hitting streak ended) were the top offensive line not named Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Josh Donaldson.

Pivetta has an ERA and FIP below 2.00 this month, helping to cover a few tougher starts from Nate Eovaldi even before what happened on Tuesday. The bullpen is now free of Ryan Brasier – he was opted for Worcester to make room for the return of Michael Wacha – and the side weapon John Schreiber turns his slider (and suddenly the fastball in the middle of the 90s) in a real role.

Just in time for a soft part of the program. After three more with the Mariners, a visit to the White Sox (below .500 since their Fenway sweep), five against Baltimore, a pair with Cincinnati (also 6-3 since a, uh, auspicious start) and a visit to Oakland to begin the year’s West Coast trip.

Thirteen games that look good on paper, as confidence begins to bubble and the breaks begin to be felt.

To be clear, a lot of fundamental issues with this team remain. Even during this small nine-game spurt, they’re still swinging on more pitches than any team in the majors, and their chase rate is fourth. (The White Sox and Baltimore are 1-2.)

Boston pitchers gave up the highest barrel rate — best contact against, based on exit velocity and throw angle — even winning six of nine through all those homers allowed. Did we mention the continued absence of a closer?

It doesn’t matter, for now. As impressive as Pivetta was on Wednesday, a Red Sox team that does a lot this summer will need to produce a lot more nights like Thursday.

Hill, without his fastball, put Boston down 4-0 in just two innings. He was gone late in the third thanks to Story’s first two outbursts, and by the end of the night, the Sox had set season highs in runs, hits, and homers. Seven extra hits, one stolen base (by Story, all five of which are in the top 20 in the American League), solid defense and voila.

He can do it. We must have kept telling ourselves this for five weeks, but the evidence is growing.

They are not the world champions of four years ago. I still think the highest landing spot for this team is the mediocre group we thought it would be a year ago, with a ruckus to come in the offseason as its most recognizable parts start to land elsewhere.

But a few days like the last two, and a few weeks like they could start producing, make this an offseason issue again.

It’s good for our collective nerves. And you can be sure it’s good for them too.



Boston

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