Rafael Devers has shown an approach at the plate that has helped the Red Sox produce offensive in a season when offense is down around the league. Will Newton/Associated Press

They say hitting is contagious. If that’s the case, much of Major League Baseball has been immune in the 2021 season.

Through Sunday’s game, the major league batting average was just .234. There are a plethora of reasons behind the lack of offense. For years now players have been rewarded for power. Low batting averages and high strikeouts were the price players paid for home run totals and slugging percentages that lead to big paydays.

Cincinnati’s Wade Miley threw the fourth no-hitter of the season on Friday night. The record for no-hitters in one season is eight, set in 1884. Tony Dejak/Associated Press

This year, power is down along with averages. Pitching is king. There have been four no-hitters already this season, the most through the first week of May in more than 100 years. And that doesn’t include Madison Bumgarner’s faux-hitter in a seven-inning game.

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora, a lifetime .243 hitter, has watched hitters fall behind pitchers over the first six weeks of the season.

“I hate to say this is what it is, but it looks that way,” Cora said over the weekend. “I don’t think it’s like the last few years when guys were hitting .210 and hitting 40 (homers.) I don’t see that happening, either.”

The 2021 Red Sox are trying to buck that trend. They lead the major leagues in batting average, slugging percentage and runs.

On Thursday the Sox scored 12 runs without hitting a homer, just the third time the team has ever done that. Eight of those hits were up the middle or to the opposite field, a sure sign that Sox hitters aren’t taking an all-or-nothing approach at the plate.

“We’ve been very disciplined,” Cora said over the weekend. “We understand who we are and we understand we’re going to hit the ball in the air and we can hit home runs. But, at the same time, we’ve been talking about it since spring training — put the ball in play in certain situations. And we’ve been doing a good job.”

That’s exactly what Rafael Devers did Sunday afternoon in Baltimore. Down by a run with the bases loaded in the sixth, Devers took two mighty hacks and missed each time. But with two strikes he was determined to put the ball in play. He managed to flick off a nasty pitch to stay alive, and then drove a ball to the wall for a two-run double.

The Red Sox had the lead, and soon had their major-league leading 22nd win.

“I think the line drives the other way help him out,” said Cora after the game. “He looks like he’s balanced now. He’s not trying to do too much. When he does that he’s in a good spot. Actually, his swing reminds me a lot of what he did in spring training. I told him the other day, ‘Don’t change a thing.’ He’s putting the ball in play with two strikes. There’s not too many swings and misses, and when he makes contact it’s loud contact.”

The Red Sox bats have been making noise all season. They will hit the quarter pole of this season this Friday at Fenway. It’s been a surprising start to the season.

Actually, not everyone is surprised.

“We believe in this clubhouse,” Devers said after Sunday’s win. “We believe in each other. We knew we were a good team.”

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN and a Lewiston High School graduate.


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