Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: This group of Red Sox a fun team to watch


It cannot be said with any certainty that the Boston Red Sox will be playing baseball in October. It is only May 15, and it's not close to being summer.

What I do know is that this is going to be a fun summer for Red Sox fans throughout Berkshire County.

In a periodic temperature-taking excursion to the old ballpark on Yawkey Way, I discovered that I liked what I saw.

This is a baseball team that grinds out at-bats and has been battling — for good and ill — on the mound. The pitching has been pretty decent, and the Red Sox are still waiting for David Price to start earning his big contract every night out.

Going into the weekend, Boston had a 22-13 record, a far cry from the 17-19 mark the team had established a year ago today. This run production has been a big reason why the Red Sox have been good.

Offensively, it was a really good week for the Red Sox, scoring in double figures every night in a sweep of Oakland and then doing the same thing to Houston in Thursday's series opener.

What caught my attention is that on Monday, Boston did it to Sonny Gray, Oakland's presumptive ace and one of the better young pitchers in the game. Thursday, the victim was the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Kuechel.

"We've been doing it the whole year," first baseman Hanley Ramirez said, when asked about the offensive performance. "We've been playing good baseball, playing hard and we're pulling for each other."

All winter, talking heads throughout New England were lamenting the hefty contract former general manager Ben Cherington gave Ramirez. The player was either hurt or "dogging it" in the eyes of may commentators and columnists.

"He's been pretty hot all year. He's hitting over .300," Travis Shaw said of the former pinata. "It's another bat in the middle of the order, another guy who can take you out of the ballpark on any single pitch. When the middle of the order guys are clicking, and the bottom of the order and the top of the order can get on, this could be a dangerous lineup."

When I was at Fenway Tuesday, Ramirez hit a ball that I'm not certain has come down yet. He's been hitting the ball to all fields and doing it with power.

Actually, you can say that about a lot of the hitters in the Boston lineup. Even Jackie Bradley Jr., the Red Sox No. 9 hitter, has been a run producer. In fact, he's been one of the best run producers in the American League recently.

"If you compare it to the second half of last year, particularly when Travis came to us, the way Jackie swung the bat in the second half, those are two main contributors to what we've done so far this year," Red Sox manager John Farrell said earlier in the week. "There's been some personnel change.

"But the overall approach we carry night in and night out has been the most encouraging thing."

Shaw won the third base job in spring training and gets to keep it with Pablo Sandoval on the shelf after having his shoulder surgery. He has done an admirable job, considering Shaw came up last summer and played mostly first base.

It would seem that even if Sandoval makes a miraculous recovery from his shoulder woes, the job at third is Shaw's.

And when it comes to the rest of the season, we should expect Toronto to find its bearings and charge toward the top of the division. Baltimore and Tampa Bay could be like the Red Sox, hanging around all summer. Only the Yankees appear to be out of it.

While that could all change in a heartbeat, Red Sox fans have to admit that this has been fun to watch.

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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