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Red Sox surpass early expectations with 7-3 trip to start the season

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 7th, 2024 9:11pm EDT

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Throughout spring training, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora emphasized getting off to a strong start despite a 10-game road trip opening the season.

With Sunday’s 12-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, Cora can say his team surpassed expectations.

The Red Sox return home with a 7-3 record, one game behind the Yankees in the AL East.

The last two times Boston has started with seven or more wins in itsr first 10 games — 2018 and ’21 — the Red Sox reached the postseason.

“It was a great road trip. Going to this season we recognized how challenging it is to come to the West coast right away,” Cora said. “The organization did everything possible to put these guys in a situation where they were going to be fresh and ready to go.”

When the Red Sox last opened with a long West Coast trip, they went 3-8 in 2019, one year after winning their fourth World Series title since 2004.

“We were better prepared coming into this one. In 2019, between the offseason, the roster we had and taking care of guys, it put us in a bad spot,” Cora said. “We were moving slow. I still remember a play in Oakland with Jackie (Bradley) and Mookie (Betts) where they let a fly ball drop between them. That’s when I was like, `Oh, we’re in trouble.’ It took awhile for us to get going.”

Boston’s great start can be attributed to power hitting and great pitching.

The Red Sox are tied for third in the majors and second in the American League with 13 home runs. They had four on Sunday, including three in the third inning. It was the second time in the three-game series against the Angels they went deep three times in a frame.

Tyler O’Neill, acquired in an offseason trade with St. Louis, is tied for the major league lead in homers with five. He also became the first player with least five home runs and five walks in their first nine games with the Red Sox.

Even hotter than O’Neill is the pitching.

Boston leads the majors with a 1.49 ERA, its lowest mark through 10 games and the lowest in the majors through 10 games since the 2005 Marlins at 1.34. No AL team had been that low since the 1982 Angels at 1.31.

“I think it’s a testament to how serious we took spring training serious to work and get ready,” catcher Reese McGuire said. “Sometimes you can kind of have fun and all of a sudden get to the season and kind of get an early wakeup call. So this year, I think we just we were focused and hungry to be better.”

The starting staff is 5-1, allowing a major league-low nine earned runs in 53 innings. They are second in the majors with 62 strikeouts and are holding opponents to a .191 batting average.

Tanner Houck, the first pitcher in franchise history to throw at least six scoreless innings with seven or more strikeouts in the first two outings of a season, is trying to maintain perspective.

“Phenomenal. You know, it’s something you don’t want to lean your hat on too much,” Houck said. “Great start to the season, but also knowing that we still have, 150 games to go. So with that being said, just go out there and continue to work and keep getting better.”

Starting Tuesday, Cora will begin to see if another point of emphasis comes to fruition — playing better at Fenway Park.

After Boston had the AL’s best home mark from 2016-18, the confines of Fenway have not been friendly to the Red Sox. They have gone 180-175 at home since 2019, ninth in the AL.

“We didn’t run the bases well, we didn’t play good defense, we didn’t pitch well at Fenway. We haven’t made Fenway uncomfortable to the opposition in a while,” Cora said. “It’s an awesome atmosphere. Sweet Caroline in the eighth and all that stuff. But man, when you’re down seven. Sweet Caroline doesn’t sound great, to be honest with you,

“We know in October it’s a different story, but for us to get to October, we’ve got to play better at home in the regular season.”

Boston will be home for 16 of its next 22, beginning Tuesday against defending AL East champion Baltimore. The 2004 World Series team and the late Tim Wakefield will be honored.

“This group bought into it in spring training, and for the first road trip it was amazing,” Cora said. “But now, we just got to be ready for it. Baltimore is probably the best team in the division. Everybody knows how good they are. This year is different with them right now. A lot of people picked them to go to the playoffs or win the World Series. So we know the challenge. We know who they are and what they do. We just got to be ready for Tuesday.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb