The Red Sox had a pretty good weekend, just in time for a big Test

Red Sox

When the Houston Astros come to town, are the Sox finally starting to take hold?

Red Sox pitcher Rich Hill smiles.

Rich Hill put a smile on many faces of Red Sox fans with another strong start in Texas against Rangers on Saturday. LM Otero/Associated Press

COMMENT

This is what we’ve been waiting for for six weeks at the Red Sox, and you haven’t seen a second of it, have you?

You are of course forgiven. Just as you’d be forgiven if, say, on Jan. 22 — when the Celtics went down 23-24 after another failed finish in the fourth quarter and the Bruins won their 10th in 12 games, Tuukka Rask apparently found it again — They made a big announcement that looks silly today.

Seasons are long things, especially in baseball where it’s easier to get into the playoffs than it is in Arizona state. With the second-worst record in the American League, the Red Sox are just 4.5 games away from the third wild card. They would have to overtake seven teams to do that, but hope is what counts in mid-May.

Just as globe Revealing over the weekend that Xander Bogaerts would indeed listen to an in-season contract offer from the Red Sox if it meant he could make anything close to market at the only organization he’s ever known. Seems eager to take action, gang. Maybe work on it?

But that’s a story for another day.

Back to that weekend you missed, completing a 3-2 road trip that was, well, progress. Eighteen runs in two days in last-place Texas isn’t going to change the world, especially after Martín Pérez ripped them apart on Sunday, but it’s enough until what comes next: A three-game visit from the hot Houston.

The Astros have won 12 of 13, with half a dozen shutouts in them. The starters are third in the majors in innings per game, and a lockdown bullpen has Houston with seven one-run wins and just three losses in games that were tied, or Astros leads into the seventh inning. (The Red Sox have lost eight such games.)

It feels like the last team a group trying to get some momentum together wants to see, at Fenway or not. And yet, what a boost a series win would be as the schedule offers the Red Sox a golden path — Seattle, with the White Sox, Baltimore, Cincinnati, in Oakland — immediately after.

The gold and the chaff are beginning to take hold. Austin Davis definitely feels like this season’s Josh Taylor, the dependable helper who appears out of nowhere. Although last year he also did quite well in low leverage positions after being taken on at close.

Remember when Ryan Brasier was that guy in 2018? After messing with an inning, four runs and two homers on Sunday, his fastball has a .435 batting average and he has every right to be the worst bullpen arm in the majors. Another guy that felt like the Red Sox needed to get something he doesn’t provide much of.

Offensive can put some of that on paper and they did on Friday and Saturday. Kiké Hernández takes a few walks around his excellent dive catch at center right. Alex Verdugo is rewarded for continuing to drive the ball immediately after driving the ball off his foot.

Christian Vázquez struggled on a two-strike pitch and threw it to right center for an RBI on Friday. Bobby Dalbec jumps through the left side with an RBI single on Saturday. Franchy Cordero snaps a few balls to the right to add some more.

Rafael Devers, Bogaerts and JD Martinez too, of course, but they weren’t the issue. Still not the start pitch. Are you watching 42-year-old Rich Hill fan, $325 million man Corey Seager, with a 68mph Frisbee slider? What’s better than that.

(This weekend, like 10 other things only at TD Garden, but that’s beside the point.)

A rotation around Hill and Michael Wacha, who could be back by the end of the week, will never feel like cornerstone. But there are more guns ready in Worcester, whether it’s Connor Seabold – who struck out 11 on Sunday and has a 2.45 ERA – or someone else.

The starters collectively didn’t take enough weight off the shoulders of the bullpen I suppose, but they certainly did their part in keeping the games winnable well into the late innings. In the modern game, that’s all a mediocre team like these Red Sox can expect.

Should we be satisfied that a mediocre squad was bought for $200 million? Absolutely not, but this is where we are and it’s good enough to beat October baseball. And if the extended playoffs make anything clear, it’s that the sport is perfectly fine devaluing excellence in 162 games because it can make more money on the following ones.

It doesn’t excuse Chaim Bloom’s roster building this year, nor will it excuse if he and his budget constraints scramble it this winter and leave you wondering what exactly we’re doing here. But again afraid of another day.

We’re off to Houston, still insanely good, and comfortably playing two nights at the Fenway where you won’t just see them on Celtics commercial breaks. Two out of three against the Rangers isn’t a huge bar, but the Red Sox did it and they have Garrett Whitlock and Nate Eovaldi to follow.

The time to get started was weeks ago. But now it has to be enough.

https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-red-sox/2022/05/16/red-sox-rangers-series-recap-astros-preview/ The Red Sox had a pretty good weekend, just in time for a big Test

Matthew Hallett

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