Red Sox Record for the Week of August 3: 0-6
The Boston Red Sox could not have picked a worse time to be knee deep in its worst collective slump of the season, having lost all four games to the New York Yankees and before that, two to Tampa Bay last week. The fact that they scored just two runs in its last 34 innings against the Yankees says everything you need to know about how poorly the Sox offense has been lately. The Sox are also in the middle of a 13-straight game stretch without a day off, going 0-6 thus far, and its only four home games in this lengthy period starts Monday night.
By contrast, the Yankees are peaking at the right time, having won seven in a row after Sunday night’s 5-2 comeback victory over Boston at the new Yankee Stadium, and owning the best record in the majors at 69-42. And that’s bad news not just for the Red Sox but for everyone else in the AL East.
Going into Monday’s games, the Yankees have a season-high six-and-a-half game lead over their arch rivals, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Bronx Bombers have never lost an American League lead of more than six games in its history. Therefore, the Sox (and by extension Tampa Bay) can all but say goodbye to the AL East division title and focus its attention to the Wild Card standings, where they are tied for first-place with Texas through Sunday’s games.
This time a week ago, the Sox were one-half game out of first-place. So, what the hell happened? Last Tuesday in Tampa Bay, Jon Lester threw 110 pitches over six innings and allowed one run. But Sox manager Terry Francona had to turn the game over to the bullpen for the final nine outs after Lester started the seventh by beaning Carlos Pena. Tito’s first mistake was leaving rookie Daniel Bard in too long, as he walked two and gave up two hits, including the game-tying solo homer to Evan Longoria to start off the eighth, but Bard got away with not being responsible for any more damage as Manny Delcarmen inherited Bard’s bases load jam and got out of it unscathed.
Tito’s other mistake (but not according to him) was pitching to and not walking Longoria in the 13th inning, as he went on to hit a two-run shot off Takashi Saito to win the game 4-2. For what it’s worth, I thought Saito should have intentionally walked Longoria and pitched to a struggling Ben Zobrist, who went 0-4 that night. But even if the Sox survived that inning, the way the offense was hitting (only seven hits in 13 innings), they were going to lose anyway because the bullpen was all used up – Clay Buchholz would’ve made a rare relief appearance, starting in the 14th inning had the game gone that far.
And this was just the start of a long week, as the Sox lost to the Rays the next night 6-4, making the Sox 2-13 in Tampa Bay over the last two seasons. The only highlights of that game were homers by Jason Bay (21st) and Victor Martinez (16th), his first with Boston.
As far as the BOS-NY series is concerned, it was a well-pitched series, with the exception of the first game Thursday night, when veteran John Smoltz gave up eight runs in what turned out to be his last start with the club. GM Theo Epstein flew to New York to tell Smoltz the next day (Friday) that he was designated for assignment. Time was just not on his side to get used to pitching post-shoulder surgery. In eight starts, he went 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA and an ugly 13.3 H/9 innings.
Interestingly, Texas, who recently DFA’d righty Vicente Padilla is interested in Smoltz’s services, but Boston would be stupid to trade him to a team fighting them for a playoff spot. He will likely be released and get a new start with another team, and for him, hopefully a playoff contender since the future Hall of Famer has had much post-season success over the years.
Speaking of moves, last week the Sox claimed infielder Chris Woodward off waivers and sent a hurting Jed Lowrie to the DL (again), called up 23-year-old Junichi Tazawa from Pawtucket to the big club and signed the previously semi-retired to a minor league deal, having pitched briefly with the Sox last year. Also, Dice-K spoke in plain English to reporters for the first time in a long while during Boston’s short two-game series with the Rays in Florida where he’s rehabbing. He wanted to “clear the air” and regret that his comments on the Red Sox and its training program were “misunderstood” by his female Japanese friend/journalist. Dice-K’s not expected to be ready for the big club until early September.
Talk about clearing things up, David Ortiz finally addressed the media this past weekend in New York and apologized for being “careless” in taking shady “supplements” in prior years, 2003 included, that may have triggered a positive PED test that the federal government now has in possession, along with 103 other such tests (though only 83 of them are confirmed positive steroid tests). If we take him at his word that he never injected any hardcore steroids into his body, that much is now clear. Still answered though is exactly what drug he tested positive for – that is likely up to the government to release. And no one at the Saturday press conference pressed Ortiz to explain his relationship with known steroid user Felix Leopoldo Marquez.
Many fans (myself among them), with Roger Clemens and A-Rod in mind, are sick of getting burned by believing star athletes when they say they didn’t do steroids, only to learn later they did. And thus, even in Boston, many fans, if sports radio and the Internet is any indication, won’t give Ortiz the benefit of the doubt and believe he’s as dirty as Clemens and the rest of the lot. I am not among the Big Papi bashers. At least not yet and not until he is proven to be a liar. Am I setting myself up to be burned again? Yes, but he has more to lose than I do – his previously golden reputation as one of the premier role models in the game.
The Sox may be in familiar surroundings these next four days at Fenway Park starting tonight against the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers, but likely won’t have an easy task of figuring out its pitching staff (though they can’t do worse than its last four games in New York). They will have to face Cy Young candidates Edwin Jackson tonight and Justin Verlander on Thursday’s matinee. The good news is that the Sox haven’t lost a series to Detroit since 2001 and swept a three-game series with them in June. The bad news is that the Sox aren’t nearly as healthy now as they were then, with new names coming and going on the 25-man roster almost daily.
Detroit’s offense, ranked 10th in the AL in scoring, will face Cy Young candidate Josh Beckett on Wednesday but won’t be scared of Boston’s struggling and inconsistent back of the rotation starters, including Brad Penny Monday night, rookie righty Junichi Tazawa, who’s making his first ever big league start Tuesday night and Clay Buchholz on Thursday afternoon. The Sox needed and failed to split the four-game series vs. the Yanks over the weekend to stay in the division race, and now must somehow earn at least a 2-2 split or outright win the series over the next four days with Detroit to get its confidence back and also hold off complete panic in Red Sox Nation – though some have already lost faith in this year’s team, no doubt.
But for the many of us (myself included) who know the Sox are a much better team than they’ve been lately, it’s not even close to panic time. Once Jason Bay’s hamstring problem heals and he, along with David Ortiz get out of the funk they’re in, the heart of the Sox offense, now with V-Mart as the number three hitter, should get back to being one of the most lethal in the AL instead of the doormat they’ve been the past week. It will be crucially important for the offense to compile at least four or five runs and about 10 hits per night when pitchers not named Josh Beckett and Jon Lester pitch. And that offensive firepower will hopefully start to make its comeback Monday night.