The MLB All-Star break could not come at a better time for the Boston Red Sox. As of July 9 this is flat out not a good team, as much as I hate to admit that. There have been a rash of injuries (the Sox lead all of baseball in disabled list stints with 20) but more of the problem is coming from players not living up to expectations, especially when it comes to starting pitching. With a 1-6 week last week, the Sox have played themselves back into a last-place tie with the Toronto Blue Jays, and quite honestly they are a very frustrating team to follow so passionately this season. Getting swept by the Oakland Athletics and then following it up by losing 3 of 4 at home to the New York Yankees is unacceptable and the worst part about it is there are so many problems you can’t even pinpoint the biggest issues.
Monday, July 2: 6-1 loss at Oakland Athletics (Jarrod Parker stymies Sox)
Tuesday, July 3: 3-2 loss at Athletics (Coco Crisp walk-off sac fly beats Sox after Nick Punto bunts into a double play in 9th to stop any chance of insurance)
Wednesday, July 4: 3-2 loss at Athletics (Ortiz hits 400th career HR but A’s still sweep Sox)
Friday, July 6: 10-8 loss vs. New York Yankees (Sox lose slugfest, 10 combined runs scored in 1st inning most in rivalry history)
Saturday, July 7 (Game 1): 6-1 loss vs. Yankees (Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones back-to-back homers in first doom Sox)
Saturday, July 7 (Game 2): 9-5 win vs. Yankees (Pedro Ciriaco has 4 hits, 4 RBIs and a stolen base to provide a much needed spark for the Sox)
Sunday, July 8: 7-3 loss vs. Yankees (Lester struggles….again)
This is a week that the Sox will need to quickly forget. It dropped them back to exactly .500 (43-43) and 9.5 games behind the division leading Yankees. It also pushed them 2 games behind the Rays, and 2.5 behind the Orioles, while keeping them in a tie with the Blue Jays at the break. It’s looking like the Yankees will run away with the division over the second half of the season, so the Sox best chance of making the playoffs now seems like the wild-card spots. The Sox currently sit 5 games behind the Los Angeles Angels for the top wild-card spot (and home-field advantage for the one-game playoff) and as I mentioned before 2.5 behind the Orioles who currently hold the second spot by half a game over the Rays and a full game over the Indians.
The bats were quiet in Oakland, scoring just 5 runs in getting swept by the A’s. They weren’t that much better once we got back to Boston either (with the exception of Friday’s first inning). You know things are bad when a player with only two hits on the week (Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and a call-up from Pawtucket playing his first weekend with the Red Sox (Pedro Ciriaco) tie for the team lead in RBIs for the week with 4 each. Saltalamacchia’s 2 hits also tied the rest of the team combined with HRs as he went yard with both of his hits (while adding an absurd amount of strikeouts with 13 on the week) and David Ortiz and Cody Ross each had 1 homerun to account for all 4 shots this week from Boston. Surprisingly, even with the lack of run scoring production, there were some players hitting for a high average this week, with Ciriacio leading the way with a 7-13 weekend (.538 average). David Ortiz hit a crazy .435 and reached base 13 times on the weekend alone and Adrian Gonzalez hit .407 on the week before being lifted last night with a severe cold.
The pitching this week was just as atrocious as the batting. The only reason I’m giving them a “+” grade is that when you lose games 3-2 back-to-back nights the loss isn’t on the pitching, but it definitely helps playing a AAAA team like the Athletics. The week’s best pitcher for Boston was Mark Melancon (didn’t think I would write that all season) as he went 5 2/3 innings this week allowing just 2 hits while striking out 7 batters. Another player who not too many people have heard of who pitched outstanding this week for the Sox was Justin Germano, who also went 5 2/3 and striking out 7 while surrendering just 5 hits. When I’m talking about players like this you know there’s a problem. Every Sox starter had an ERA above 4.00 this week, with Diasuke Matsuzaka doing the worst allowing 5 runs in just one inning and then immediately being placed on the disabled list with a right trap injury. Even the bullpen came crashing down to normal, with Matt Albers the only player to throw scoreless innings (2) joining Germano and Melancon as the only pitchers to leave the mound unscathed.
The Sox made 4 errors this week, 1 by Ryan Kalish (who is now back in Pawtucket) and 3 by Mauro Gomez (2 on one play) who tried filling in for Will Middlebrooks at 3rd base though that experiment didn’t work out too well. These 4 errors aren’t really anything to concern yourself with, fielding has been more than acceptable for the Sox even this week. The runs were scored on this team by batters “hitting it where they ain’t” and even worse by batters hitting the ball out of the park against the Sox, so defense was not the killer this week.
Thank Goodness for the All-Star Break. The Sox lone representative, David Ortiz, should get 1 at-bat in the game tomorrow (and thankfully he is not participating in tonight’s home run derby). After the break the Sox start a weekend series with the Rays at Tropicana Field, so next week’s review should be a short one. The later it gets in the year the more important the games become (though they all count the same in the standings) and the Rays are a team that the Sox will be competing with from now through September for a wild-card spot. The AL East should get one, if not both, of the wildcard spots, so it would be huge if the Sox are able to win that series and start the second half of the season off right.
Stay tuned later tonight, as I’ll have my mid-season report card for each player on the current 40-man roster as well as the coaching staff and front office, so hopefully you’ll enjoy that read as well.
I can't believe how profoundly screwed up the 2012 Red Sox are behind the scenes. The stories I am hearing in KC are just unfathomable.—
Bill Simmons (@sportsguy33) July 09, 2012