Don't look now, but Red Sox are finally making a case to join the class of the American League


Now we're talking.

Sweeping the Royals before losing five of six to the Rays and Texas told us nothing. Sweeping the Orioles after salvaging a split with the Rangers suggested cautious optimism.

But after taking two of three from the American League-leading Twins to run their overall streak to seven wins in eight games, it's fair to say that the Red Sox are ba--.

They're ba--. They're BA--. They're …

No need to get ahead of ourselves declaring them back. Let's just accept that they're playing much better baseball at a point in the season where they can make up legitimate ground in the AL East before entering the All-Star break feeling a lot better about their chances of contending than they did even two weeks ago.

"It's been a topic of everybody," manager Alex Cora told reporters in Minnesota following a 9-4 victory over the Twins. "It's a team, they've got forty-whatever wins, and the best record in the American League [48-25]. We came here and yesterday we played a great game, we bounced back today, we won the first one.

"They have a good team, but we do, too. We're playing a lot better lately. Now we go home. We know we've got to play better at home. That's the next step, the next challenge. We've got six games [homestand], so go over there and start dominating at Fenway."

The Red Sox can talk about dominating with a straight face because they finally claimed a series against a good team after a series of misfires. The Twins began the night with a 10-game lead over the Indians in the AL Central, but they ran into a Red Sox squad determined to remind everyone it's actually better.

After taking the opener Monday with a crisp 2-0 victory behind Rick Porcello and just enough offense, the Red Sox dropped the follow-up Tuesday in 17 innings. Cora insisted that the team would bounce back in much the same way it did after losing Game 3 of the World Series in 18 innings, earning some criticism for believing his own propaganda.

But just as the Red Sox returned to Dodger Stadium the next night and claimed Game 4 before closing out the series on enemy soil, on Wednesday they hammered Minnesota pitching for nine runs, pulling away after blowing a 3-2 lead.

"I don't know. We had a tough time the first night because [Jose] Berrios, he's a good pitcher, but we won the game," infielder Brock Holt told reporters. "Last night, you start playing that many innings, guys maybe get a little antsy to try to do a little bit too much. And then tonight we tried to focus.  

"I feel like our situational hitting was pretty solid tonight. When we got a guy on third, we got him in, for the most part. It's just better approaches tonight, I think guys kind of didn't try to do too much, and we just tried to get those extra runs in when we had a chance."

After going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, the Red Sox bounced back in a big way, going 7-for-14 and driving Twins starter Kyle Gibson from the game in the fifth after working him for seven hits and five walks.

"We knew last night was rough for us," Holt told reporters. "We had opportunities to score last night in multiple innings and we didn't, to win games you've got to score when you have chances and tonight we were able to do that. So that's something that we probably haven't done as good as we should this year, so it's just something we need to focus on putting together better at-bats with runners in scoring position."

With the Yankees hammering the Rays to complete a sweep, the Red Sox actually ended up losing a game in the standings to New York this week and trail in the division by 6.5 games, but they pulled within three games of Tampa Bay for second place.

They now host the lowly Blue Jays and middling White Sox for six games before jetting to England for a two-game set vs. the Yankees.

It may be too soon to say they're officially back, but at least they're finally rolling.

"Yeah, it was good, especially after last night's game, we could have come in and kind of been dragging today, but to come out tonight and take two of three from a good team over there, a good road trip for us," Holt said. "We're excited about the off day tomorrow, get some guys some breaks and get back out there."

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