Red Sox Week in Review: April 16-22

Well, this has been an incredible week to be a fan of the Boston Red Sox. Since my weekly report last Sunday night, the Sox have been outscored 46-17 and lost 5 consecutive games to teams that probably will be playing in the postseason as the Sox look on from their couches at home. To make matters worse, in the one game that the bats did get going, the bullpen managed to blow a 9-0 lead yesterday afternoon in a humiliating loss to the New York Yankees. What makes it even more frustrating is that Clay Buchholz got lit up on Friday afternoon to put a sour ending to the celebrations of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary party. So like I said, it’s been a real fun week.

The Results:

April 16: 1-0 loss to Rays

April 17: 18-3 loss to Rangers

April 18: 6-3 loss to Rangers

April 20: 6-2 loss to Yankees

April 21: 15-9 loss to Yankees

Rays Finale: The Patriots’ Day game did not go according to plan. I recapped the game in a post on Monday that you can find here (http://wp.me/p2h1Lv-6E) but all you really need to know is that it was James Shields’ day (8 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 Ks) and that the Red Sox continued with their lack of run production for Daniel Bard.

Rangers Series: Thankfully for the Red Sox this was a quick two game midweek series at Fenway Park against the team who now has the best record in baseball (13-3).  The two-time defending American League champions proved why they are the toughest team to beat and gave Red Sox pitching a taste of their potent offense. In game one of the series, catcher Mike Napoli connected for a pair of 2-run home-runs, while Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz also went yard on Sox pitching. This was one of the worst outings of Jon Lester’s career, lasting only 2+ innings and giving up 7 earned runs on 8 hits. Mark Melancon was the bullpen pitcher responsible for the majority of the rest of the damage, surrendering 3 home-runs and 6 earned runs without recording an out, and as a result Melancon was demoted to the Red Sox AAA minor league affiliate Pawtucket Red Sox later in the week. The Red Sox traded infielder Jed Lowrie and starting pitcher Kyle Weiland in order to acquire Melancon and so far that is looking like a major mistake.

Mike Napoli feasted off Sox pitching this week.

In the second game of the series the Sox were able to keep it a bit more respectable, falling 6-3 on Wednesday night. Mike Napoli again was the player haunting the Sox the most as he hit his third two-run shot of the series and finished the game with 4 RBIs. Derek Holland pitched 7 strong innings for Texas in out-dueling Josh Beckett who pitched decently (7 IP, 7 hits, 3 ER, 7 Ks). Franklin Morales put the game out of reach as he surrendered 3 walks, 2 hits, and 3 earned runs while only recording one out in the 8th inning, and that was that.

Yankees Series: Mother Nature appears to have helped the Red Sox today, raining out the finale of a scheduled three set with the Yanks. This series started out with an afternoon game on Friday, after a touching celebration on field that celebrated 100 years of Red Sox history. In what in my opinion is one of the coolest moments to happen in the park, former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner received a warm ovation as he, just as many other people formerly associated with the club, walked out from behind the left field Green Monster in taking their old position in the field pre-game. As anyone who follows baseball knows, Buckner misplayed a grounder in the 1986 World Series that cost the team game six and potentially the series, but on Friday (just like in 2007 when Buckner threw out the first pitch after the Sox raised their second championship banner of the decade) the fans received Buckner well, showing him that we forgive him after all these years. Unfortunately, the pre-game ceremony was the highlight of the weekend.

In Friday’s game, as I mentioned earlier, Buchholz gave up 5 home runs (2 for Eric Chavez, 1 each for Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and Alex Rodriguez). Of Buchholz performance, Bobby Valentine said “He’s still building. He’s still getting his feet underneath him” but any time you give up five homers in a game it’s cause for at least a bit of concern.

Saturday wasn’t much better, and honestly I still really don’t want to talk about it. Nick Swisher again had a big game, hitting a grand slam in the 7th inning and adding a go-ahead double in the 8th to account for 6 RBIs. Mark Teixeira added half a dozen RBIs of his own, including a home-run for both sides of the plate, as those two guys outscored the Sox on their own. Only once previously have the Red Sox blown a lead of at-least 9 runs when they blew a 10-run versus the Blue Jays way back in 1989. Sox starting pitcher Felix Doubront has to be the player most upset with this loss, as he pitched 6 quality innings giving up only 1 earned run on 4 hits through 6 innings before handing it over to the bullpen. Vicente Padilla and Sox closer Alfredo Aceves combined to give up 10 earned runs while only recording one lone out, making this game one of the most painful losses that I can ever remember.

Former players took their customary positions during 100th anniversary celebrations of Fenway Park on Friday. Sadly this was the only real highlight of the week.

What’s Next: Personally, I’m glad I made it through this column without using profanity. Trust me, it was extremely difficult. The good thing about baseball is that you are only as good as you’re last game, so maybe at some point this week I’ll be able to feel just a tiny bit better about this team. The rain out today gave the Sox a much needed off-day to clear their heads and leaving Boston to go on an American League central road trip is exactly what the doctor ordered.

April 23-25: 3 games at Minnesota Twins

April 26-29: 4 games at Chicago White Sox

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