Sorry I’m a little later with this than usual, but when your team wins 3 of 4 from a division leader and then promptly gets swept by a cellar dweller you probably wouldn’t be rushing to brag about them either. The Red Sox had another tough week, as you can tell, as they took three of four games from the Chicago White Sox and then got swept by the Blue Jays over the weekend. I’m going to keep this report short so that I can keep my sanity, but let me tell you how frustrating it is to watch this team right now. They are back to exactly .500, and every night when I turn on NESN at 7 PM, I go into the game wondering how they will a find a way to lose that night. It’s no way to be a fan, but with this team I’d rather be happily surprised when they do pull off a win than devastated when they let a “lesser” team (on paper) come into their stadium and wreak havoc.
White Sox Series
Even with this pathetic week, two of the Sox wins may have been the best two games of the season thus far. Monday’s 5-1 win was a historic day as Kevin Youkilis made his return to Fenway Park, sitting in the opposite dugout for the first time ever. Youk had a big day, going 3-4 with 2 doubles (and scoring the White Sox lone run in the first), but it wasn’t enough as an Adrian Gonzalez 3 run homer in the 8th made the game 4-1 and then Mike Aviles later scored Cody Ross on a single to make the score 5-1. The biggest news of the day may have been an injury to David Ortiz, who pulled up lame after he rounded second on the homerun, and then went on the 15 day disabled list with a strained right Achilles tendon. Boston then lost 7-5 on Tuesday before blowing out the ChiSox 10-1 on Wednesday. Thursday night was another thriller, as Cody Ross became the hero, belting a three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th inning to defeat the White Sox 3-1. This game was not only encouraging because of Ross, but also because Clay Buchholz scattered just 6 hits over 8 innings, allowing 1 run and striking out 6 batters.
Blue Jays Series
This is a series I don’t want to talk about. The Sox fell 6-1, 7-3, and 15-7 to Toronto over the weekend and played like absolute crap. Not too much to take away from it, so the only thing the team can do is move on and try to do better this week.
The Sox are back in the basement at exactly .500 (48-48). With the sweep from the Jays, the Sox now sit a half a game behind Toronto and 9.5 behind the division leading Yankees. The Sox are still roughly in the same situation as last week in the wild card race, 3.5 games behind the Angels, Baltimore and Oakland for the two spots, with Chicago, Tampa, and Toronto still above them in the standings also.
Offense wasn’t the problem this week. Should they have done more against the Jays pitching? Of course. But the reason this team struggled so mightily over the weekend was the pitching. Adrian Gonzalez had a fantastic week at the plate, batting .429 with 3 HRs and 12 RBIs. Cody Ross had the second best week of any Sox hitter, going 9-25 with 3 HRs and 3 doubles, and driving in 9 runs. No other player hit more than 1 homerun or drove in more than 4 runs, but the attack was pretty well balanced.
The pitching for the Sox was atrocious this week, particularly the starting pitching. Jon Lester is broken, and Josh Beckett is hurt; It’s as simple as that. Lester had a 19.13 ERA for the week after allowing an incredible 17 runs, and while Beckett didn’t have a horrible outing (6 innings, 5 runs allowed;4 of which earned, and 7 strikeouts) the team expects more out of him. Buchholz had one of his best outings of the year, Felix Doubrant pitched solid, and Aaron Cook turned in two excellent performances, but this team cannot expect to do any damage in the playoffs (if they can pull the miracle and make it there) if Lester and Beckett aren’t the top of the rotation guys that they are supposed to be. In the bullpen, Mark Melancon and Franklin Morales got roughed up a bit this week too. Thankfully, Alfredo Aceves pitched 3 innings without allowing a run to lead the bullpen, and he’s been a staple at the end of that bullpen this year and may deserve to keep ahold of the closer position even when Andrew Bailey is ready to return.
The team made two errors in the White Sox series, one which was costly as it an Adrian Gonzalez throwing error allowed Kevin Youkilis to score from first base on a ground ball to second. Over the weekend a Will Middlebrooks throwing error Friday, on an Edwin Encarnacion infield single allowed Encarnacion to move to second, and he would then score on a single one play later. On Saturday, another Middlebrooks error came back to haunt the Sox too. These runs weren’t the reason the team played so poorly, but they didn’t help.
The Week Ahead
I wish things would get easier for this team, but that’s not the case this week. In about two hours the Sox begin a three-game set in Texas against the Rangers, and then after a Thursday off-day the Sox play three at Yankee Stadium against New York. These are the two best teams in the American League that the Sox are facing, and while other years I’d think of these series against potential playoff opponents as a way to match up and see where this team stands, but this season it’s different and I feel like the Sox just need to survive this week. Odds are they won’t be able to make up much ground this week, so it will come down to whether or not they can stay in the race for the wildcard.