Tanner Houck had another strong outing on Sunday, allowing one run in six innings to help the Red Sox beat the Brewers, 2-1, at Fenway Park in Boston. Steven Senne/Associated Press

This was a good weekend to take stock in the Red Sox. Memorial Day is a signpost in the annual baseball season. We’re just about one-third of the way through the campaign. It’s a chance to assess a team and figure out where it stands.

The simple answer is, we have no idea. Still. The Red Sox are 27-27 after an 11-3 loss to Baltimore on Monday, and in third place in the AL East. That’s better than most people expected from this team. It is also one full game behind where the Red Sox were through 54 games last year. No one is holding 2023 up as a standard worth repeating.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Red Sox start has been their pitching. The Red Sox hit Memorial Day with the second-lowest ERA in the majors, but that has steadily crept up. Boston’s ERA is over 3.97 since mid-May, and Red Sox pitching ran into a buzzsaw over the weekend when the Brewers came to town.

Milwaukee scored 13 runs in the first two games at Fenway, and showed an advanced approach against Red Sox pitchers. The Brewers refused to expand the strike zone and wouldn’t go after breaking pitches outside the strike zone.

“They didn’t chase a whole lot, I noticed, like in some of my previous outings” starting pitcher Kutter Crawford told reporters after Boston’s 7-2 loss Friday. “They’re good hitters. They’ve got a good approach. They don’t chase a whole lot and make you get in the zone.”

It was almost like the Brewers figured out the cheat code to break the spell Sox starters have been casting on major league hitters this spring. The plan of attack has been to throw fewer four-seam fastballs and to focus on breaking pitches with east-west movement. It has worked for the better part of two months.

Advertisement

It worked well again on Sunday, when Tanner Houck lowered his ERA to 1.90 with six brilliant innings in a 2-1 win that saw tempers flare and benches empty in the seventh inning. The fire brought the Fenway crowd to life, as did Jarren Duran’s single an inning later that drove in the winning run.

Jarren Duran drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of the Red Sox’s 2-1 win over the Brewers on Sunday at Fenway Park in Boston. Boston improved to 9-0 on Sundays. Steven Senne/Associated Press

The Sox are 9-0 on Sundays this season, and taking the final game of a weekend ensures you don’t get swept. Manager Alex Cora needs to start taking his team to church, or brunch, every morning to make that Sunday feeling a daily ritual.

He also needs to get them to play better at home. The Red Sox fell to 11-15 at home this season, the third-worst mark in the American League and by far the worst in the division. The Red Sox are 50-57 at home going back to the start of last season. If you can’t win at home, you almost certainly won’t win a playoff spot.

The mere fact that we are talking about the possibility of a wild-card spot is a testament to how this team has exceeded expectations early in the season. Experts had them headed for the basement in the AL East. While they are closer to last place than first, they have kept their heads above water and are ahead of the Rays and the Blue Jays.

The Red Sox have been far from perfect. They have given up a staggering 37 unearned runs this season, a reminder their defense is fragile at best. The offense has been inconsistent, especially with runners on. They have run into outs.

All of that speaks to a collection of young players. So does the excitement they flash at times. It’s been a fun, if occasionally frustrating, team to watch.

“I know what we are as a team,” Cora told reporters after Sunday’s game. “There are things we have to do better but I bet there’s a lot of people a little surprised at what we’re doing. But if we continue to do those things, we’re going to be in the mix.”

That’s more than anyone expected this season. Even if staying in the mix has come with mixed results along the way.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: