Red Sox riding positives into key week before All-Star break

BOSTON -- Sunday was Family Day for Red Sox players and staff, which gave them all a chance to mingle with relatives on the field after the game.

The festive scene was fitting given the events of the previous few hours, when the Sox got contributions from all over to pick up a big 5-4 win over the Houston Astros. The victory, the club’s 11th in 17 games, seemed to further galvanize a group that has, at times, appeared dysfunctional on the field.

“Through the month of June, it’s carried into the early days of July here,” manager John Farrell said after his team trimmed its deficit in the American League East to six games, the slimmest margin since a 5½-game spread on June 8. Sister Sledge won’t be penning any new family-related ditties just yet (see Pittsburgh Pirates, 1979), but the vibe is significantly more positive than it was in the woebegone days of May and early June.

Here are some takeaways from the win, and the series as a whole, the third straight claimed by the Sox:

1. Monday is a day off, followed by two games at home against Miami and then another day off before three at Fenway versus the first-place New York Yankees. Including the All-Star break, Boston will play five games -- all at home -- in a span of 11 days. Two more series wins, one against a rival leading the division, could dramatically alter the approach heading toward the end of the month and the trade deadline.

2. Ryan Hanigan had his first three-hit game in well over a year, following up fellow catcher Sandy Leon’s three-hit game in Saturday’s 6-1 win. The Sox are 12-8 in games that Hanigan starts and his return this week has solidified things behind the plate.

“Prior to him breaking his hand he was putting up tough at-bats,” Farrell said. “He fouls off a number of quality pitcher pitches, serves three base hits in roughly about a 20-foot span in the same spot, key RBIs. Just doing a very good job in that spot in the order.”

3. Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homer in the seventh inning Sunday was the difference on the scoreboard. He has five home runs in his past 10 games overall and five in seven games as the designated hitter. As tempting as it might be to keep David Ortiz at first base, Mike Napoli on the bench and Ramirez in the comfort of the DH role, it’s not happening anytime soon.

“I’d have to say [his production as a DH] is coincidence because he’s going to be our left fielder,” Farrell said. “Clearly Hanley has done that very well on the days he has been the DH for us. I don’t see many at-bats in the DH spot going forward.”

4. Boston erased deficits of three runs, two runs and one run in Friday’s extra-inning loss and came from behind to win Sunday. The fight the Red Sox showed stands in stark contrast to the team that seemed to finish games with a whimper earlier in the year.

“I like to think so, I think we all like to think so,” Hanigan said of the improved spirit in the dugout. “We’re winning some games here but we’ve got to push. Even that game we lost we were coming back, battling back, it just didn’t work out. It’s good to see the fight. Guys are all hitting, taking the extra base, playing aggressive. Guys are feeling good, I think. Hopefully it will be a fun second half.”

5. Hanigan caught rookie Eduardo Rodriguez for the first time Sunday and was impressed. Although Rodriguez’s pitch count soared to 101 in his five innings of work, he struck out a career-high eight and all six hits he allowed were singles.

“His stuff is explosive. You understand, when he shakes [off a sign for a pitch], I always have a lot of confidence in him because he just knows what he’s doing out there,” Hanigan said.

6. Opponents are 1-for-23 against Koji Uehara over his seven-inning scoreless streak. Sunday marked his ninth straight save conversion and gave him a 1.35 ERA in 21 save opportunities on the season. Very quietly, he’s looking like the vintage Koji.

7. After showing some recent signs of breaking out of the season-long funk, Ortiz was 0-for-6 with a pair of strikeouts over the last two games of the series. He is batting .151 with runners in scoring position and .128 against lefties.

The slugger did get credit from Ramirez for playing first base so he could DH and Napoli could rest. The move has much more to do with the latter scenario than the former, but if Napoli is able to emerge from his downtime and rediscover his power stroke, the one-day lineup shuffle will look pretty good.

Farrell also credited Ortiz with helping to set up Ramirez’s decisive blast.

“You look at the 11-pitch at-bat in front of Hanley, it may have taken a little out of [Astros reliever Tony Sipp] in the moment,” he said.

Ortiz fouled off a total of six pitches in the encounter before drawing ball four. That was just his second walk in 90 plate appearances against a left-handed pitcher this season, setting the table for a big blow on a festive day at Fenway.