Xander Bogaerts slides into second base safely against the Rays. Credit: Getty Images
The Red Sox weren’t playing great baseball in mid-May by any means, hovering at or below the .500 mark. Then, matters became worse when the club went on a 10-game losing streak. Much of the blame was directed toward the team’s younger players who were playing everyday, particularly Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.,as they were not performing to the high standards many had set.
But, as is the case with most good teams, the Red Sox pulled things together and have rallied for six straight wins going into Sunday. With such a turnaround, and with the star-power the team possesses on its roster, it would be almost a sure thing it was the big-name players leading Boston out of its funk.
Due, in large part, to injuries to Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, it’s been players under 25-years-old, the same guys who were blamed for the poor start to the season, igniting the recent victories.
“We’re relying on them,” manager John Farrell said. “They are getting everyday at-bats and their contributions are needed. You see their confidence grow with each passing day.”
Perhaps the biggest catalyst has been Bogaerts, as on May 10 he was hitting .172 (5-for-29) with one extra-base hit in the month of May. Since, he’s hit .392 (19-for-74) with 11 extra-base hits.
Another spark has come from another unlikely source in 25-year-old Brock Holt. Holt was recalled on May 17 when Will Middlebrooks went on the disabled list with a fractured finger. Holt has hit safely in 10 out of his last 12 games, hitting .362 in that span.
Also, to give the team a lift, Farrell changed the batting order around to have Holt leading off and Bogaerts in the No. 2 hole. The change has worked as the team has won six of those 10 games and the pair has given the Sox some much-needed stability at the top of the order. In the 10 games he’s led off, Holt has hit .298.
“[Brock] and Xander have gone an outstanding job in the No. 1 and 2 hole,” said Farrell.
The other player highly critiqued was Bradley Jr., whose lack of offense was the topic of much conversation. Over the 10 game losing streak he hit .120 (3-for-25), but in the recent win streak he hit .273 (6-for-22).
“More than anything, over the last 10 days or so [Jackie], Xander and Brock have started to feel comfortable and confident at the major league level,” Farrell said.
No game showed more evidence of the young guys coming around than in Saturday’s 7-1 win over the Rays, where the three players went 4-for-12 with two homers (Bradley Jr. and Holt), scoring four runs and knocking in four as well.
As tough as losing 10 games in a row was, the satisfaction of how well the younger players are playing now is even more gratifying as the team's patience has paid off.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter:@RyanHannable