Unfamiliar feast for Sox

CLEVELAND -- If the record was 4-10 and not 10-4, we can only imagine the snark that would have resulted from manager John Farrell mentioning Wednesday that Red Sox players spontaneously went out for dinner as a group upon their arrival here Monday night, 22 strong by his count.

(No, the manager didn't join them. "I wasn't invited, and I would have declined if I was," he said. "That's not my place.")

There would have been tired references to chicken and beer, of course, and intimations of carousing, no doubt, and grumblings that the team would have been better off getting a good night's sleep rather than going out on the town. That's the way we tend to operate.

But the record is not 4-10. That was last year.

After a 6-3 win over the Indians in which Alfredo Aceves gave the Sox five shutout innings before tiring in the sixth, and three Sox relievers retired all 12 batters they faced, and the forgotten Mike Carp swatted three extra-base hits, and Shane Victorino had one of those all-purpose nights that made him a star in Philly -- big hits, a big catch, a big throw and a little bunt that proved to be big -- these Red Sox have won five in a row. Their 10-4 record is the best in the American League East, second in the league only to Oakland (12-4) and their best start since 2006.

And just maybe, Monday night's communal feast was emblematic of what is taking place on the field as well. Farrell certainly was pleased by it.

"I think what we've quickly come to see," he said, "this is a group that likes to be around one another. I think those are all encouraging signs."

Daniel Nava has had an interesting couple of nights in Cleveland. He struck out all four times he went to the plate Tuesday night, salvaging some good from the night with a sliding catch. On Wednesday, he rebounded with two run-scoring singles, part of a 15-hit Sox offense.

"First and foremost," he said, "it was huge for Ace to pitch the way he did, extend us all the way to the sixth. A lot of guys were swinging the bat tonight, which was contagious. I'm glad I had a way to contribute. But as you've seen, we have guys from top to bottom, getting the job done. Vic had a great night. A lot of guys. [Sox management] did a great job putting together a bunch of guys who work well as a team."

And going out together as a team?

"I don't know how many we had," he said, "but I know we had a really good group, a really good showing. Basically the guys who couldn't make it had a reason they couldn't make it. Everyone was there; it was fun.

"That's what baseball's about, to have fun. You want to enjoy your teammates, and that's what we did. It was just a good night, a lot of fun. I can't describe it any way than that. We have a good group of guys in this clubhouse."

Nava has been up and down over the past three years, but he couldn't recall a nonsponsored team event that attracted players in such numbers as gathered Monday. It was a particularly appropriate night for hanging together, given what they'd left behind in Boston just a couple of hours earlier.

That was a communal experience of another sort, following reports of the marathon bombing on their TV screens.

They all went to a steak and seafood place, one whose name escaped Nava. "Good food," he said. "Better company."

Who picks up the tab on such occasions?

He smiled.

"That's never in my hands," he said. "It hasn't been in my hands yet. Most of the guys who have been around and established themselves are usually gracious enough to cover the rest of us. I think guys are grateful that they do, and it teaches the younger guys when they get their shot that's what they do."

But seriously, a visitor inquired, can a correlation be drawn between teammates breaking bread together and a 10-4 record?

"It doesn't hurt," he said. "I don't think you can look into it too much, but at the same time, there's nothing like having fun with your teammates.

"I notice it, too, when I step in the box. I hear guys in the dugout. I can hear guys. I know certain voices, yelling. Everybody's picking each other up, whether it's a knock or a well-hit ball, everyone's pulling for each other."

It remains to be seen whether the camaraderie will last beyond the first five-game losing streak, but as Jonny Gomes would say, all the signs are pointing north.

"That's what you want on a team," Nava said. "It's a lot of fun to play when you know guys have got your back and are pulling for you."

And passing the mashed potatoes, too.