Shanna Lockwood/USA Today Sports

Red Sox 6, Astros 5: After slow start, Red Sox officially back in first place

John Tomase
June 19, 2017 - 12:22 am

A new season begins today.

On Sunday night, the Red Sox beat the Astros to move into a virtual first-place tie with the Yankees, who lost for the sixth straight game.

For all of their travails -- injuries to pitchers David Price, Steven Wright, and Eduardo Rodriguez, Pablo Sandoval and the rotating door at third base, the gaping hole in the lineup where David Ortiz used to be -- the Red Sox still find themselves atop the division for the first time since April 18.

If you believe the Yankees have played over their heads and the Red Sox under their capabilities, it's not hard to envision how this could play out over the next three months: with the Red Sox slowly but surely pulling away.

Ask yourself what's more likely: that rookie Aaron Judge stays on a 57-homer pace, or that Betts jumps back into the MVP race? That the Yankees continue to outhomer the Red Sox by a 2-to-1 margin, or that the Red Sox turn on the power? That Luis Severino continues to pitch like an ace, or that Rick Porcello rediscovers his form?

The Red Sox may have their issues, but with Craig Kimbrel leading what has quietly become one of baseball's best bullpens, they're not blowing games late. And even though they're last in the AL in homers, they rank in the top half in runs. With Bogaerts hitting nearly .320, Betts coming alive, and Jackie Bradley Jr. raising his average more than 50 points in the last month, the Red Sox look to be hitting their stride.

There's no question they're the most talented team in the division. The Orioles have fallen under .500 after a hot start and are in danger of being passed by the Blue Jays, who lost 11 of 13 out of the gates and have been climbing uphill ever since. Taking two of three from the AL-leading Astros just reinforces the Red Sox' place in the pecking order.

With Chris Sale pacing the rotation and Kimbrel slamming the door, the Red Sox are actually well positioned to take control of the AL East.

Sunday night represented step one. Now that we're back to even, it's a new season, and the Red Sox are poised to make some real noise.

The Red Sox overcame a mediocre start from Price, who teetered on the verge of disaster but avoided the big blow. He allowed eight hits and three walks in five innings, but even after surrendering two homers, only allowed three runs.

Xander Bogaerts was the offensive star, delivering two homers while driving in four runs. The game got a little chippy in the seventh when Mookie Betts (knee) and Dustin Pedroia (back) were drilled with pitches, earning warnings for both benches. Betts was later drilled in the right elbow on a pickoff attempt at second, but remained in the game despite being in obvious pain.

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