MLB: Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians

Aug 14, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) celebrates with catcher Christian Vazquez (7) after hitting a three-run home run against the Cleveland Indians during the seventh inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

OK, did they suck you back in?

If you saw this space on Tuesday, you read about your Boston Red Sox living The Big Tease in 2019, how every time you try to get out they draw you back in.

Is that what they did in Cleveland Wednesday and Thursday?

They won both games, even surviving yet another bullpen failure to win the first one, as Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts performed like MVP candidates and the beleaguered Andrew Cashner became the latest “closer.”

As the song goes, “We won’t be fooled again.” But again, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Berra made that comment as the manager of the 1973 Mets, a team that was in last place on Aug. 30. The NL East was really “balanced” that year and the Mets made a 21-8 charge and made it all the way to the World Series, giving rise to Tug McGraw’s cry “you gotta believe!”

Older Sox and Yankee fans will never forget 1978. The 2007 Rockies won 14 of their last 15 to qualify. On the flip side, it was a collapse by the 2011 Red Sox that knocked them out.

In other words, anything can happen.

The Red Sox hit their off day before a three-game visit by the horrible Orioles and two games against the Phillies awaiting at home — and sat 7½ games behind the second wild card. They were 5½ games behind the A’s, also in the hunt. The Rays had the spot, with the loser of the Central battle between the Indians and Twins also in the picture.

It’s a lengthy climb — but would NOT go down as the greatest comeback charge in baseball history. Don’t believe me, ask Dodgers fans about 1951.

The Boston bullpen is still a highly questioned mish-mash, apparently changing by the hour. The rotation is still up and down, with Rick Porcello looking to rebound from his latest bad outing in Friday’s series opener. But this is doable with a hot streak from the champs.

As far as his bullpen, manager Alex Cora said Wednesday, “Aw, man, let me enjoy the off-day on that one. Let me go (spend time with my) twins and the family and we’ll talk Friday.”

Now, they face the Orioles, who are coming off losing four straight in the Bronx, giving them 16 straight losses to the Yankees and a 2-17 season series with New York. However, the Birds have given the Sox some trouble this year –- they are 39-82 overall but a respectable 5-8 against Boston.

The last time the teams met, the Orioles, despite losing one game 17-6, won the three-game series against the Red Sox, who had been 8-0-2 in their previous 10 series against the Birds.

Dynamic duo

The left side of the Red Sox infield is pretty good, eh?

The best in the game? Could be.

There are other REALLY good ones: Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. in San Diego, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in Denver, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman in Houston, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in Cleveland to name four. But Devers and Bogaerts have been so good in 2019.

Through Wednesday, Devers, coming off hits in eight straight plate appearances and becoming the first player ever with six hits, including four doubles, in a game, was hitting .327 with 25 homers, 94 RBIs and a team-high .954 OPS. Bogaerts, shaking off a mild slump in Cleveland, was at .308 with 27 homers, 92 RBIs and a .947 OPS.

From @SoxNotes: “Rafael Devers recorded a hit in 8 consecutive plate appearances (double, single, double, double, single, double, single, HR). According to @EliasSports, it had been 81 years since a Red Sox player had a hit in 8 straight plate appearances (last: Pinky Higgins on 6/21/38 at DET).”

“That’s unbelievable,” said Chris Sale, who became the fastest pitcher to 2,000 strikeouts in the same game. “Not only tonight, but as a whole. He’s not only one of the best players on our team, but he’s one of the best players in the league. He’s got a chance to be MVP. That in itself is pretty special.”

After homering again Wednesday, Devers, according to @StatsCentre, joined Alex Rodriguez (1996 Mariners), Ted Williams (1939 Red Sox), Joe DiMaggio (1936 Yankees) and Hal Trotsky (1934 Indians) as the only American League players with a 25-homer/40-double season at 22 or younger.

Kudos to NBCSBoston’s Darren Hartwell for pointing out: “Is Rafael Devers’ favorite day August 13? 8/13/17: Game-tying ninth-inning homer off Aroldis Chapman; 8/13/19: 6-for-6, four doubles vs. Indians.”

American League doubles leaders through Wednesday:

Devers 43; Bogaerts 40; Nick Castellanos 37; Andrew Benintendi 35.

Note: Castellanos is no longer in the AL (oh, and Mookie Betts was tied for eighth with 31).

Getting defensive

Early reports on the Patriots defense have been nothing but positive as the quest for a seventh championship begins.

“We’ve got a very good defense this year,” says quarterback Tom Brady. “Those guys are challenging us on every day. It’s hard to complete passes on our secondary. I mean, that’s just the reality.”

Speaking on WEEI, Duron Harmon said, “Any time you see the defensive line getting after the quarterback, I mean we talk about nine sacks, but how many times was there pressure in the quarterbacks face forcing hurried throws and stuff like that? That is really exciting for us because when you get pressure like that it leads to turnovers in the back end.”

Gronk update? From @BostonSprtsNews: “Rob Gronkowski appears to have scheduled a meeting with the media for 8/27 in New York City. Per a PR agent, Gronk plans to unveil his “next chapter” as he “tackles new opportunities.”

Recovering well

Isaiah Winn, a top draft pick before missing his rookie season, is back at full speed.

“We’ll just go day-to-day like we are with all of our players,” head coach Bill Belichick said Thursday. “Every day is an opportunity for all of us to get better, to work on the things that we need to work on, to improve, develop consistency, and find our role on the team. Whether it’s a coach, a player, whatever role the player’s in, whatever year he’s in, it’s an opportunity for all of us, so I want everybody to take advantage of it. I think he has, I think they all have.”

Receiver Braxton Berrios also missed his rookie season and is also opening eyes in camp (and the two road practice sessions).

“Even a guy like Braxton — didn’t play last year but was in our system, was working out,” safety Devin McCourty said. “It doesn’t take long for people to start viewing you as, ‘Hey man, you’re kind of a veteran. We need you to pull some of the young guys along.’ And I think he’s done a great job of that.”

The Danny Etling “era” has ended in New England. Moved from quarterback to receiver in camp, and then released, he was picked up by the Falcons. Etling will forever be remembered for an 86-yard touchdown run in last year’s preseason finale. Etling will reportedly battle for the No. 3 QB spot in Atlanta.

Finally, Brady, asked after going up against old friend Mike Vrabel in practice this week if he ever intends to enter the coaching field, said, “Oh, hell no. Playing is enough for me.”

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.