Despite the welcomed diversion that the World Cup is providing for sports fans in New England, it is still not enough to make them totally forget about what a disorienting and bizarre season it has been for the Red Sox so far. After looking like a junior varsity team as they suffered through a 10 game losing streak, they turned it around for a stretch of 7 straight victories when they were inspired by such youngsters as the 26 year old Brock Holt (.327, 22 runs, .366 OBP) and the 21 year old Xander Bogaerts (.269, 6 Hrs, 19 RBIs. .353 OBP) . Bogaerts seemed at first to be motivated by the announcement of the return of SS Stephen Drew to the Red Sox lineup, getting his BA as high as .299, before falling into an 0 for 19 slump that saw his average tumble to its current levels.
During that time, the Sox dropped five in a row, including the three game sweep in Cleveland. In the six remaining road games, 3 each in Detroit and Baltimore, they went 2-4, and were lucky to do that as they scored but one run in the entire series against the O’s. Fortunately for them, the now suspended Brandon Workman held Baltimore to one hit over 6.2 innings, to help make the one run hold up. They returned to friendly Fenway, to take 5 of 7 games, but even that had a good news/bad news feel to it, as they scored but 5 runs in the three games against the lowly (or should I say, “lowlier” Twins) and even that required some back to back homerun heroics by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in the tenth inning of game three.
I’ve said on several occasions that I wasn’t expecting the magic from 2013 to carry over to this season, but I wasn’t expecting them to be so boring in such a turbulent kind of way. The now terminated Grady Sizemore experiment was probably a good idea, but it was badly handled. Did they really think that after being out of baseball for two years that he would be able to suddenly function at a major league level? Would not an extended Spring training or at least some time at AAA have been a good idea? Is it really good for Jackie Bradley to be kept with the big club where he can barely keep his head above .200, while leading the team in K’s with 73? I like Ben Charington, and believe he deserves much of the credit for all three of Boston’s Championships, but I will second guess him on the Xander Boegarts as a shortstop thing. I have to believe that that was done as a way to give him the opportunity to figure the thing out for himself, while at the same time giving Will Middlebrooks the chance to prove himself–which he has yet to do.
There are also a few items I think you have to give them a pass on, as well as a few where maybe the magic hasn’t totally abandoned them. I for one did not expect Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront to be be such non factors. Even before their injuries, they contributed little. Doubront was particularly surprising, as he appeared to show up for Spring training in good shape and ready to go. Although the inconsistent performance so far of Jon Lester (8-7, 3.20) has once again reopened the question as to whether or not he’s a true number one, others have stepped up to keep them alive. John Lackey with a 8-4, and 2.96 ERA, has probably been their best starter. Youngsters Brandon Workman (2.88 ERA) and Rubby De La Rosa (2.84) have also turned in some nice starts for manager John Farrell. The bullpen of Andrew Miller (2.48), Junichi Tazawa (2.32) Burke Badenhop (1.63) who they obtained from the Brewers, and of course, Koji Uehara, (0.83) with his 15 saves in 15 opportunities, has continued to be a strength.
In theory, at least, the Sox could still repeat. After everything that has happened so far, they are only 6.5 games out as they approach the All-Star Break. With both Daniel Nava and Stephen Drew hitting over .380 over the last seven games, their offense could be back. Who knows? Maybe with the possible return to form of Lester, and either Buchholz or Doubront, they could make a run at the division title. But the division title is likely the only way they’ll return to the playoffs, and to do that they will have to overtake Baltimore, New York, and Toronto. Again, in theory, possible.
Anyway, it could make for an interesting second half of the season. Hopefully…
Featured image courtesy of: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
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