Note: Written before Friday nights game.
Well, since the last installation of 3 Up 3 Down the Boston Red Sox have been less than spectacular. In fact, they have been pretty awful; losing 5 of their last 6 dating back to Saturday’s loss to the Rangers. In short, it hasn’t been pretty.
The Sox squandered 2 late game leads, are all of a sudden struggling to score runs (22 in 6 games), seem to have caught the error bug at inopportune times (see: Ciriaco, Lackey, Ross’s missed tag), and have given up 40! runs in the last 6 games. Also worth noting that 4 of those games were against the Minnesota Twins who are 15th in the league in runs scored, 18th in batting average, and 23rd in slugging percentage. Ugh.
Although more went wrong than well for the Red Sox this past week there were bright spots. First, the Red Sox remain tied atop the AL East standings with Baltimore and New York. Second, the Sox remain 2nd in the Majors in runs scored with 170. Third, Stephen Drew has come around as predicted in recent weeks and Shane Victorino continues to be better than advertised. Fourth, and most importantly, it is blatantly obvious that this team cares. They care about winning, they care about how Boston perceives them, and they care about each other.
How can you tell? On Tuesday night Stephen Drew won the game on with a walk-off wall ball off the Monster. Who was one of the first ones to greet the winning run (Salty) and Drew? Will Middlebrooks despite the fact that he is enduring quite possibly the worst slump of his baseball life.
And, Thursday night in the waning moments of the game both Victorino and Pedroia (who are having a personal competition to see who can hit more home runs this season) went down looking on sliders from Glen Perkins that seemed just a bit out of the strike zone. Then they were together on the top step of the dugout chirping at home plate umpire Lance Barksdale. Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but I like to think they were illustrating the fact that they have each other’s backs, which is something that has not been too popular (according to Terry Francona) amongst Red Sox players since before 2011. It is certainly refreshing to finally see once again.
Last night my cousin, who is an avid Red Sox fan but also an astonishing hysteric, sent me this series of text messages in response to the Red Sox performance this past week:
May 9, 12:51 PM: “Joe. I’m telling you. If we lose tonight, panic button.”
Around 9:00 after Lackey threw away double play: “Great game guys! Joe told you: panic button!!”
A few minutes later: “Sweet. Gotta love the sox. Hack job choke artists.”
10:21 PM after the loss: “Panic Button: #pressed”
Remember that World Champion teams go through stretches like the one the Red Sox are going through now. The 2004 Red Sox were 11-14 in June. The 2007 Red Sox lost 9 of 12 in the middle of July. The 2012 World Champion Giants endured a few swoons throughout the season when they lost 5 of 7 to begin both May and July then went 1-7 to end that month. And we all know the story of the improbable World Series run made by the Cardinals in 2011 after playing .500 baseball until the end of August.
It is small instances like Pedey and Victorino from last night that should reassure Red Sox fans that all is and will continue to be well. The ship will be righted and it is just one of those slides that every baseball team endures throughout the 162 game marathon. Pat and others who are in alarmed, let’s take our finger off the panic button. Hey, at least we aren’t Angels fans, right?
Over the past 5 games, the calls for Jose Iglesias have finally quieted since Drew’s bat has gotten going. Since Saturday’s loss in Texas, Drew is 9-20 with 1 HR, 5 RBI, and a game winning hit on Tuesday night.
Last week I wrote about how Drew’s line drive rate was above his career average so all signs pointed to a hot streak sooner rather than later. If Drew continues to hit well and play great defense, his acquisition could quietly become one of the best of the offseason.
Victorino continues to play above the level that Red Sox fans expected the beginning of the season. Despite his back issues, Victorino sports a .310 batting average with a .375 OBP. I’ll take that any day from the 2 spot in the lineup. In addition, his splits against RHP have not been terrible: .278 BA and .350 OBP. A few more stolen bases would be nice (he only has 3), but other than that Victorino has been great.
He is also playing stellar defense. Fangraphs puts his UZR at 7.6 this season, which ranks between Above Average (5) and Great (10) on the Fangraphs rating scale. Oh, and compare all of this to BJ Upton who signed a bigger, longer contract with Atlanta and is currently hitting .153 with 3 SB.
New closer after Hanrahan and Bailey went down. He is poised to do a great job in the role for the foreseeable future and even beyond since no one really knows how long Bailey or Hanrahan will be out.
Yikes. Doubront continues to have trouble finding the strike zone, and when he does he gets smoked. His line in Texas was baffling: 97 pitches, 3.2 IP, 12 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO. Well, finding the strike zone was not the issue on that night, but getting outs certainly was.
Thus, Farrell decided to move Doubront to the bullpen where he proceeded to come in relief of Allen Webster (the guy who replaced him) and gave up 11 hits and 5 ER over 5.1 IP. Another odd stat: 1 HR. That is how many Doubront has given up this entire year, which I find peculiar for a guy with an ERA over 6.
DL. Who knows if Bailey can stay healthy the rest of the season on a consistent basis. On the other hand, Hanrahan may be out for the season… So much for the comfort of having too many closers.
Ells went 2-16 against the Twins, which dropped his average to .263. He only has 10 hits in the month of May and I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Sox have not been playing well during that stretch. It seems that the Red Sox will go as Ellsbury goes.