Friday, June 12, 2015

Sox Swept, Sinking Fast

Farrell (L) and Miley pictured moments before their shouting match (Boston Herald) 
It's starting to turn into that kind of season for the Red Sox, the kind of season where they take one step forward, then two steps back. The kind of frustrating year where they're hot one week, cold the next, and ultimately end up underperforming expectations. By a lot.

Over the weekend Boston swept the Oakland A's at home. In and of itself, this was not impressive. The A's were, and still are, the only team in the American League with a worse record than the Sox. Furthermore, the Red Sox were at home, where they've actually had a winning record this year (hard to believe, I know). All three games were close, too, with Boston winning each by three runs or less.

So even though it took the Red Sox two months to earn their first sweep of the season, and they won three in a row for just the second time all year, and at the end of it they were still last in the AL East, there was hope. They were starting to hit. Their pitching had been better. Things were looking up for the Olde Towne Team, especially with a three-game set against Baltimore, with whom the Sox shared last place. With an off day for travel, Boston would be fully rested and ready to continue their recent tear.

Didn't happen. The Red Sox stumbled into Camden Yards and dropped three in a row, falling a season-worst seven games below .500. They were blanked 1-0 in the opener despite Miguel Gonzalez, the Orioles starter, leaving the game in the fifth with a strained groin, for which he was just placed on the DL. They left nine men on base and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, wasting another magnificent start by rookie Eduardo Rodriguez, who gave them six shutout innings while striking out seven.

The lineup, which has struggled all season long despite the high-priced additions of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, dropped the ball again in the middle game as Boston fell 5-2. That one was more on Rick Porcello, who allowed the Orioles to jump out to a 2-0 lead and was scored upon both times Boston scratched out a run. Porcello's pitched poorly all season with a 5.26 ERA to show for it, making the $82.5 million contract extension he received two months ago look like a mistake with each time he takes the ball.

The finale featured a similarly ugly outing from Wade Miley, who was bombed for three home runs and had more runs allowed than innings pitched in his final line for the fourth time this year (out of 12 starts). After being rightfully removed from the game, Miley proceeded to lose it on John Farrell in the dugout, as if it's somehow the manager's fault that Miley owns a 5.07 ERA on the season. Down four runs by the end of the third, the Sox rallied but ultimately came up just short, losing by one run for the second time in three days.

And with that, Boston has now lost three in a row five times this year. They've been swept three times, though this was the most inexcusable given that a) Baltimore was a last place team going into the series.and b) the Red Sox used their two best starting pitchers. They're back home tonight, where they've played decently this year, but against the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays, winners of eight in a row. The Jays have the kind of lineup that can feast off Boston's weak rotation, especially with righty mashers Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson capable of launching balls over the Monster.

Tonight's game in particular has all the makings of a slugfest, what with two mediocre starting pitchers (Drew Hutchison and Joe Kelly) facing opponents that have given them serious trouble this season. Tomorrow afternoon's tilt could bring more of the same, with probable starters R.A. Dickey and Clay Buchholz a combined 5-12 on the season. The Red Sox should have the upper hand in Sunday's series finale with Rodriguez back on the bump versus Marco Estrada, and they'll likely need a strong start after the heavy workload Boston's bullpen will have to carry today and tomorrow.

Rodriguez, a 22 year-old rookie, is the only Boston starter who can be trusted right now. That says all you need to know about how this season is going for the Sox.

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