A Sports Blog by WBZ-TV's Dan RocheBy Dan Roche

BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Red Sox have snuck under the Boston sports radar thanks to the Bruins and the Celtics playoff runs.

They got off to that bizarre 0-6 and 2-10 start, but they were able to emerge from the intense scrutiny they are always under in pretty good shape. Oh, it did cause a major panic from the fans and was a bit embarrassing to the players, but they moved on.

And now on this Monday, May 22nd they are sitting in better shape than they probably thought possible.

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Amazingly, the Red Sox are hovering around first place in the AL East. They are a 1/2 game back of first behind New York and Tampa Bay thanks to a 14-6 May during which they’ve won 8 of their last 9 games. And we’re only two-thirds of the way through the month.

Times have changed in a hurry.

One big factor? They got lucky in that no team has run away in the East. No 21-6 type of start from either the Yanks or the Rays. Huge.

How have the Sox pulled this off?

Let’s start with the much-hyped offense. Adrian Gonzalez has been even better than Theo advertised. His sweet swing is leading him to a .326 average in May with 8 HRS and 26 RBI. David Ortiz (.333, 7 HR, 11 RBI this month), Kevin Youkilis (10 game hit streak where he’s hitting .405 with 8 extra base hits), and Jacoby Ellsbury (.326, 12 runs, 8 RBI, 2 SB in May) have been on fire. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.375, 3 HR last 10 games) and Jason Varitek (.357 last 5 games played) have settled down behind the plate and have begun to hit.

The defense has been steady. Everyone has been making plays, minus the 8th inning on Saturday night.

The pitching has been very good. Starters Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester have been efficient going a combined 13-5. They have to figure out the 4-5 spots due to injuries, but they received huge boosts from Alfredo Aceves (5IP 3H 1R 2BB 2K) and Tim Wakefield (6.2 IP 4H 1R 0BB 3K) this past weekend. They also hope to get Felix Doubront to Boston as soon as he’s fully recovered from a groin injury.

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Jonathan Papelbon (8 saves, 2.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) has been brilliant in leading the bullpen after being a huge question mark coming out of the spring. Daniel Bard has struggled at times, but has been good as well.

And, don’t forget the steady hand of Terry Francona. The guy never wavers. Steady and loyal.

Are the Sox perfect? By no means.

Carl Crawford is stuck in the 8-hole in the lineup while hitting just .209 (4 game winning hits though). Dustin Pedroia has been in a long funk at the plate, but had 2-hit games both Friday and Sunday. Marco Scutaro has been hurt. The bullpen… minus Papelbon and Bard… has struggled. Theo added Franklin Morales to the mix this past weekend and the hope is to get Bobby Jenks back soon, but it is still a major work in progress. Meanwhile, base runners are still swiping bags at an alarming rate.

However, big picture-wise, if you woke up from a 7-week hibernation Monday morning, you would be more than fine with where this team is.

Give them credit for coming back. And once the Bruins run ends… feel free to sit back, relax, and enjoy the summer with your Boston Red Sox.

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