The Red Sox won their Thursday night game against the Royals 4-1.
This, in itself, is not terribly impressive or noteworthy. Yes, the Red Sox have lost quite a few more games than they have won this season, but the nature of baseball is that even the worst teams win a lot of games. There's just that many games in a season, and perhaps more than in any other sport, that leaves the team records bunched around the middle.
What is both impressive and noteworthy is that...well, the Sox are kind of looking different these days.
They won tonight behind a very strong outing from Wade Miley, who has done this before and will do it again. It's been a disappointing season for the lefty, but against the bleak hellscape that was the Red Sox rotation as a whole, he's actually been relatively passable, and really has just struggled to get on a real tear for any extended period of time.
But on any given night, he has the chance to be quite good, which is what he was Thursday, recovering from a leadoff single in the first by getting a double play ball from Ben Zobrist, then striking out the next three batters he faced. The Royals wouldn't get on the board until the fifth, when Mike Moustakas managed to take Miley deep to right, but that was good for just the one run, and with Miley's pitch count staying awfully low, he was able to pitch into the eighth, where he finished his night by striking out Alcides Escobar for the first out of the inning. Aside from the homer, the Royals managed only singles and the lone walk against Miley.
The lineup was not up to the sort of explosive shenanigans we've seen out of them of late, but they did manage to put together a first inning run against a struggling Danny Duffy, who gave up ringing singles to the first two batters he faced, then walked David Ortiz with one out and Travis Shaw with two to bring in a run. Their biggest outburst came with two outs in the third when, with Travis Shaw at second and Hanley Ramirez at third, Ryan Hanigan singled both men home and then scored his own run on a Jackie Bradley Jr. triple.
Again, individually these performances aren't terribly noteworthy. There was no home run derby as there was against Kluber. No three-hit nights, even. Just largely solid performances throughout (Hanley Ramirez, sadly, was once more the exception having never reached base safely).
But what is impressive is that, slowly, the Red Sox seem less like one of the worst teams in baseball, and more like a spoiler that the good teams would really best avoid when they're in a tight playoff race. They're doing this on the backs of Travis Shaw, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rusney Castillo who, yes, still have a long way to go (in decreasing order) to prove that they're more than one-week or -month wonders. But they're also doing it with the help of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, the two stars of the season if indeed such a season can be said to have stars. With that of a resurgent Pablo Sandoval and completely revitalized David Ortiz. And with Professional Baseball Player™ Ryan Hanigan and his protege Blake Swihart, who seems to have hit his stride right around the point where he might have been called up to begin with barring the emergency that rose when Hanigan was injured.
The pitching is hit-and-miss, and the bullpen remains something of a horror show. This I grant you. But lately, if you find yourself watching these Red Sox and thinking that there's a good 2016 team somewhere in there, you're not alone.