Boston’s J.D. Martinez, right rear, celebrates his game-winning, two-run double in the 12th inning, behind Enrique Hernandez, center, as Tampa Bay Rays’ Austin Meadows walks off the field on April 6, at Fenway Park. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox arrived in Minneapolis riding a six-game winning streak. It’s their longest winning streak since June 2019.

What a difference a week has made for the Sox, who have shrugged off the stench of their 0-3 start by steamrolling the Rays and Orioles and taking sole possession of first place. They hadn’t been in that position since they won their franchise-record 108th game on the way to a World Series championship in 2018.

This year’s team has already shown an ability to rally late in games. They’ve already won twice when trailing in the ninth this season. They had only done that four times in the previous two years, in a total of 222 games.

Those two wins also represented Boston’s first two victories under the new extra-innings rules put into place before last season. The Sox were 0-4 in extra innings in 2020.

Last Tuesday night the Sox went to the 10th inning for the first time this season, and a lot of fans were surprised to see a runner placed at second base to start the inning. That’s understandable – a lot of fans didn’t pay much attention to last year’s team as it stumbled to the AL East cellar.

The fans who did pay attention last season didn’t seem to like it, yet many Red Sox fans are coming around to it now that the team is winning games. Red Sox Manager Alex Cora didn’t manage last season, but has experience with rule changes through the World Baseball Classic. He thinks Major League Baseball should make the rule changes even more extreme.

“I still feel that first and second no outs is a lot better,” said Cora.

Cora thinks two men on will lead to more potential outcomes benefiting both sides. Double plays are in place, as are multiple-run innings.

“I think scoring one run, it doesn’t make any difference,” said Cora. “You gotta score two.”

Sure enough, the Red Sox scored two in the final inning of each of their two wins in extra innings.

And, sure enough, not everyone agrees with the rule.

“Hate it. Stupid, ridiculous. All of the above,” said former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon on his NESN appearance last week. Hoping we’ll be able to get Papelbon to loosen up a little and be more blunt as the season continues.

From a fan’s perspective, the rule brings an instant jolt of energy to the 10th inning. I’ve always thought the 10th was the most boring inning in baseball. A team usually has one of its best relievers on the mound throwing gas, facing three hitters trying to end the game with one swing of the bat.

Instead, a man on second base means decisions must be made immediately. Do you bunt the runner along? Do you intentionally walk a batter to set up the force? Strategy becomes paramount and managers are put to the test with no safety net.

Cora has passed the early test of this season with flying colors. He has instilled a confidence in this team that was sorely lacking last year. He has better pitchers at his disposal, and a relentless offense that outscored the Rays and Orioles by 28 runs over six games.

It’s still early. We shouldn’t hit the panic button after an 0-3 start, and we shouldn’t reserve the duck boats after a six-game winning streak. What we do know is this: the Sox have given fans a little reason to believe that this could be a fun summer of baseball in Boston. The team is having more fun than it has in a couple of years.

Fun has been sorely missed in the last 12 months. It’s good to have it back.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.

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