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Red Sox Week Two: Mediocre Almost All The Way Through

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Red Sox Record for the Week of April 12-19: 1-6

Remember the mostly good starting pitching, solid defense and better-than-expected offense the starting nine displayed during the first week of the season? Forget it. The players themselves sure did.

As they try and snap a five-game losing streak Tuesday night versus Texas, the Red Sox (4-9, 6 GB) are off to their worst start since going 2-11 to start the 1996 season. They're also 1-6 at Fenway, their worst home start in 78 years.

So what went so terribly wrong and what needs fixing? That’s an easy question: just about everything.

First up is Jon Lester. The lefty stud, along with the whole Sox team had the privilege of being the first visiting team to play in Minnesota's new Target Field on its Opening Day last Monday afternoon (April 5). But the Sox lost the game as they have in four other rare Opening Day games as visitors going back to the early 1900s. The score was 5-2 and Lester gave up four of the five Twins runs in five innings on 107 pitches. He fell behind in the count too often, and having thrown only 59 strikes, paid for it with Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and Joe Mauer collectively knocking in three runs in the first two innings.

Fortunately for the Twins, that was all they needed to win the first ever game at Target Field as the Sox offense scored just one run in six innings against (beatable) veteran Carl Pavano, and one more off Twins’ relief pitching in the final three innings. Lester was worse at Fenway on Sunday vs. Tampa Bay when he allowed seven earned runs in six innings. He is now 2-6 in his five-year career in March/April, with an ERA well over 5.00.

Highlight of Week Two: Okajima And Hermida Help John Lackey Get His First Boston Win

The Sox beat the Twins 6-3 Wednesday for their lone win of the week. Starter John Lackey went 6 2/3 innings, allowing just two earned, but only had that line preserved when crafty lefty Hideki Okajima ended a Twins two-out, bases loaded threat in the seventh with the Sox ahead 3-2 by getting Justin Morneau to pop out.

With Jacoby Ellsbury still out, the young 26-year-old outfielder the Florida Marlins gave up on, Jeremy Hermida, has stepped in wonderfully in his absence in left field. He’s also the best lefty in the Sox lineup right now, with David Ortiz and J.D. Drew giving the Sox offense next to nothing. Hermida’s big moment in the Wednesday matinee was his three-run double in the eighth inning that made a 3-2 Sox lead more comfortable at 6-2. The Sox would need that big hit to stay ahead as the Twins got their third run in the next half inning. But that would be all for the scoring as Jonathan Papelbon saved his third game of 2010 in the ninth, and Lackey earned his first Red Sox win. That would be it for highlights as the Twins won the next game and series the next day, with an 8-0 victory.

Don’t Blame It On The Rain

With the exception of yesterday’s wrap-around finale on Patriots Day, the weather for the Sox-Rays four-game series was miserable. Friday night’s game had to be completed Saturday night because of the rain. But both teams had to play through the rain and cold, and the Sox performed much worse than anyone expected, rain or shine. The Sox, who are supposed to be an improved defensive squad over last year, couldn’t field – costly errors and botches were made by Adrian Beltre, a hurting Mike Cameron, Bill Hall, and Jeremy Hermida to name a few – or drive in more than nine total runs in the four games. They were 0-24 with RISP in the series, and even had one runner (Kevin Youkilis) thrown out at the plate over the weekend courtesy of a bad judgment call by first-year third base coach Tim Bogar.

Its catchers (Victor Martinez and especially Jason Varitek) couldn’t throw out any of Tampa Bay’s speedy base stealers (Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, etc.) and most importantly, its supposed deep pitching staff couldn’t keep the Rays bats from knocking in runs. Including yesterday’s 8-2 win on Patriots Day at Fenway, where the Rays got to Lackey for eight earned runs for his worst outing of the young year, the Rays outscored the Sox 24-9 to sweep all four games to put them in first place in the AL East a half game ahead of the Yankees.

With outstanding starts from Matt Garza, prospect Wade Davis, and Jeff Neimann this past weekend a solid bullpen, and an offense that ranks near the top of the big leagues in runs scored, they are already proving to be a force to be reckoned with once again in the AL East. The BoSox on the other hand, took a big step back this past week, while the Yankees practically kept pace with the Rays with its sweep of Texas in four games.

The only good Sox news over the weekend was off the field: the birth of Papelbon and wife Ashley’s second child, Gunner Robert. Congrats, indeed.

The Week Ahead

Look for Kevin Youkilis (.217 BA as of April 19) to get back on track and do better than the 1-15 showing in the Tampa Bay series. Other key players with batting averages in the low .200s like V-Mart, and one of these two veteran lefties, J.D. Drew and Big Papi, who have just four RBI between them on the year so far, need to get hot and step up their production now that Mike Cameron is on the 15-day DL with an abdominal (muscle) tear. Off the field, Papi is also going to have to respond to the surprising lawsuit from Jay-Z and business partner Juan Perez who claim the DH’s Dominican club name “40/40” was stolen from the rapper’s own U.S. nightclub spots by the same name.

Jeremy Hermida, as well as he has done in spot starts for Jacoby Ellsbury, can’t be counted on to hit well full time, so look for fresh Triple-A call-ups like Josh Reddick or 31-year-old Darnell McDonald to make a splash or two in the lineup this week, with the just announced news that Ellsbury will go on the 15-day DL – he is still experiencing sharp pains in his stomach as of batting practice today. The Sox are so far 1-6 without him in the lineup.

The Sox continue its 10-game home stand Tuesday night with three games against the Texas Rangers, followed by three against the Baltimore Orioles. With Texas, the Sox will be facing good pitching but a disappointing hitting squad. The Rangers have a surprisingly good 3.41 team ERA going into Tuesday (second in the AL), while its offense, like the Red Sox, ranks near the bottom in runs scored. With Baltimore, their pitching staff’s ERA is second to Kansas City for worst in the AL, and its offense has scored 44 runs, a league low.

The Rangers-Red Sox series could be an early test to see how good Texas pitching really is, and also a test for Boston’s offense to overcome early adversity and injuries to key players (Ellsbury and Cameron). But between that series and the O’s series, both being at hitter-friendly Fenway Park, the BoSox should at least win half their games between Tuesday and Sunday. If not, it’s going to be another long week in Red Sox Nation.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.
  • Tony

    Or maybe their best steroided-up hitter left for LA, their other best hitter stopped taking steroids, and they let Jason Bay go for freakin’ Mike Cameron ha ha ha.

    I’m so glad that little Red Sox blip over the past 100 years is finally over. As a baseball fan in general in got pretty annoying.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Maybe Alec Sulkin put it best.

  • Howard Larrabee

    I am a little over passionate about the Red Sox, so I apologize before my comment. Mediocre is not the Sox this year. They are rift with problems, players getting older and not producing (Drew, Ortiz), no ability to stop any team from running on them (32 SB’s in14 games), and a very weak hitting lineup after Youk. Oh yes, and middle relief is very suspect too. This is a .500 team at best, even with our great starting pitching>