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Surging Red Sox rout Mariners, climb above .500

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 5/11/2019 Julian Benbow

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In a season driven more by winding narratives than crisp baseball, Red Sox manager Alex Cora found some irony in the situation his team found itself in Friday.

The Sox were fresh off a successful road trip — the kind that helped wash away an ugly start to the season. Their stars — from Chris Sale to Mookie Betts — were returning to the form that made them elite a year ago. Even the sound and fury that inevitably followed the team as its players weighed their reasons for going to the White House had subsided.

The kicker: The Sox had a chance to face the same Seattle Mariners team that threw them into a hole to start the season by taking three out of four games to start the year.

In a lot of ways, the Sox’s 14-1 win over the Mariners felt like a reboot. The victory pushed the defending-champion Sox over .500 for the first time this season after being as far down as seven games under.

“That’s the first goal,” Cora said. “We didn’t play well, so we needed to get back to .500. We did it without playing our best baseball, I think. We still can do better. Now the goal is to get to five over .500, and so on and so on. That’s how you do it. You can’t start looking at 10 or 20. It’s by stages. We’ll try to get to five over .500 as soon as possible and then go from there.”

BOX SCORE: RED SOX 14, MARINERS 1

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They’ve won three straight games, six of their last seven, and nine of their last 11, bringing the momentum they built on a 5-2 road trip back with them to Fenway Park.

The Mariners looked nothing like the team that blasted 11 homers and outscored the Sox, 34-24, over the first four games of the season.

Instead, starter Eduardo Rodriguez muzzled the Mariners, holding them scoreless on five hits over seven innings with five strikeouts and one walk.

With Seattle’s offense on mute, the Sox bats went to work. Andrew Benintendi went 3 for 5 with his fifth homer of the season, a solo shot of Anthony Swarzak in the sixth inning. Rafael Devers went 3 for 5 with his second homer of the season and four RBIs. Mitch Moreland went 2 for 3, driving in four runs and hitting his team-high 11th homer of the year.

It was the third time the Sox cranked out 10 runs this season.

“Definitely playing more like we want to,” Moreland said. “Obviously continuing to get guys on and create those situations to have those bigger innings. It’s definitely helping us. The pitching staff’s done a great job. Eddie did a great job tonight. It was a good, complete win for us, for sure.”

Mookie Betts (1 for 3, two runs, 1 RBI) lit the fuse with an RBI single in the third inning on a ground ball up that middle that plated Jackie Bradley Jr. Two batters later, after a single by J.D. Martinez, Moreland hit a towering shot to right-center field off Mariners starter Erik Swanson that gave the Sox a 4-0 lead.

The next inning, Devers led off by lifting a 1-and-2 changeup from Swanson into the visiting bullpen to stretch the lead to 5-0.

The Sox piled on in the fifth when Moreland dropped a 2-and-2 changeup from Swanson just inside the foul line in the left-field corner for an RBI double.

With that, Swanson’s night was done. In 4⅔ innings, the rookie righthander gave up seven runs on seven hits with just four strikeouts.

But the damage wasn’t done. Swarzak came on to clean up the mess but gave up a single to Xander Bogaerts that made it first and third with two outs. Devers cashed in with an RBI single to right that scored Moreland and pushed the lead to 7-0. Benintendi poured it on in the sixth with a homer to right field.

Even with another rough low-leverage outing from Tyler Thornburg, the Sox showed the traits of a dominant team. They came up with seven two-out RBIs on seven two-out hits.

“I think good teams do that,” Cora said. “In ’17, Houston didn’t strike out that much, and they won the World Series. Same thing last year. With the stuff that you see on a daily basis, I know it’s hard to do, but good teams do that. We have a good team.

“Like I’ve been saying all along since we went to Tampa, we feel that we’re putting good at-bats, we’re walking a lot more, we’re controlling the strike zone. It was just a matter of getting that big hit. I know in Baltimore we struggled two games, but it feels like we’re getting close to who we are.”

Rodriguez’s seven innings gave him his longest outing of the season. Now, after posting a major-league high 8.79 ERA in through April 11, Sox starters have a 3.06 ERA over their past 26 games.

Ten of the Sox’ past 15 wins have been decided by at least four runs. They only had one such game in their first 24. And the team that had the second-worst run differential in baseball in mid-April has outscored opponents, 123-67, since then. The plus-56 differential is the highest in baseball since April 19.

“That sounds good,” Moreland said. “It’s nice to kind of get back above that mark, but at the same time, that’s obviously not the end all. We’re going to continue to work hard and keep doing the small things that we’ve been working on, trying to get better day in, day out. We’ve played well the last few weeks. We’ve just got to continue to add to that.”

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

Related slideshow: 2019 MLB season (provided by imagn)

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