Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Last Place Here We Come

Atlanta's Freddie Freeman (M) scores as Sandy Leon (R) looks on (Gazette Net)
The Red Sox lost again last night, the seventh time in a row. Following their 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves, they're now 11 games under .500 and nine games out of first. Heck, they're six out of fourth.

Once again, the culprit was Boston's anemic offense, which managed all of two runs against a Braves team that was supposed to be a doormat this year. Once again, the Red Sox struggled with runners in scoring position, going just 1-for-7 in those situations and leaving seven men on base. That explains how, despite outhitting their opponents 10-9 and putting a dozen men on base, they scored half as many runs. It didn't help that Boston bounced into three double plays, either.

Leave it to the Red Sox to lose a game where they didn't allow an extra base hit, didn't make an error, and used only three pitchers to the Braves' five.

Boston was also unable to take advantage of a decent turn by Rick Porcello, who lasted into the seventh inning and pitched well enough to keep his team in the game. The problem was, as it has been all year, is that he didn't get a lick of run support. The Sox had yet to score when Porcello departed in the seventh inning.

Even more frustrating was that the game ended with the winning run at the plate for Boston. Down to their last out and trailing 4-1, the Red Sox rallied. Pablo Sandoval smacked a ground-rule double, Mike Napoli reached on an error, and Mookie Betts singled to center to score Sandoval. That brought up Alejandro De Aza, the last hitter Red Sox fans hoped to see in such a situation given that he's barely above the Mendoza line and has driven in all of eight runs this season.

Sure enough, De Aza failed to deliver. He hit a dribbler out in front of the plate, which closer Jason Grilli gathered and fired to first to end the game.

Tim Britton, Sox beat writer for the Providence Journal, wrote that Boston's season died Friday night when the team blew a seven-run lead to the Blue Jays and lost 13-10. I'm inclined to agree with him. It can't be overstated how demoralizing losses like that are to team morale, when sure wins wind up as heart-crushing defeats. This is especially true of the Red Sox, who have struggled all season and rarely enjoy such large leads. After just being swept by Baltimore, they really needed to get back in the win column and could have used a big win to boost their spirits. Instead, they left Fenway Park that night with their heads in their hands.

I'm with Tim. Stick a fork in this team, because they're done. I know there's still 97 games left to play, which is a lot of baseball, but it's plain for all to see that this year's squad just doesn't have it. Not enough hitting, not enough defense, and definitely not enough pitching. Last place, here we come.

To win 90 games, Boston would need to go 63-34 the rest of the way--a .649 winning percentage. The Red Sox, as currently constructed, are not winning two out of three from this point forward. Even if they win 60 percent of their games going forward, they'd still only finish with 85 wins, which isn't enough to earn a trip to the postseason. The hole they've dug for themselves is simply too deep.

I believe the lineup is going to hit eventually--it's too good not to, especially as the weather warms. David Ortiz has already started turning things around, and so has Sandoval. Mike Napoli and Hanley Ramirez are capable of carrying the club when they get hot. I'd expect Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Blake Swihart to all get better as the season progresses and they gain more experience.

But the pitching staff just isn't good enough, certainly not good enough to carry this team into the postseason. Clay Buchholz is too inconsistent, Rick Porcello doesn't miss enough bats, and Wade Miley just flat-out sucks. Joe Kelly lacks the command and secondary stuff needed to complement his blazing fastball. Justin Masterson is simply a bust, the same way Stephen Drew was a bust last year.

So unless the Red Sox really turn things around during the next six weeks, they're going to be sellers at the trade deadline again. With this summer shaping up to be a seller's market, however, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

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