It's hard to have any confidence at 2-10. In fact, it's pretty much impossible. We've all seen the data that was thrown around--how many teams have made it from the playoffs, to the World Series, etc. from that position. It was not, to say the least, encouraging.
But here the Red Sox are, at a still-disappointing but rather more survivable 5-10, and things are starting to look up. In fact, they're even beginning to look comfortably familiar. After all, five games under .500 is not so far off from the four games under of the 2009 Red Sox, who came out of the gate at 2-6. It is, in fact, strikingly similar to the 4-9 2010 Red Sox, who shortly thereafter were 6-10, and then eventually 49-32. That's a 98 win pace, for the record.
It's especially encouraging what's happened in those three games, too. Let's review:
- Runs were scored: The Red Sox have scored 21 runs during their win streak, and 51 runs over the last nine games, going back to the start of the Yankees series. While not all the bats are heating up (Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez remain relatively quiet), with Kevin Youkilis now not just walking but also hitting the ball, and David Ortiz not just hitting the ball but walking (he has taken eight free passes in the last four games after taking two the rest of the season) the Red Sox now have four batters with wOBAs at or over .380. Of course, one of those is rather higher than the others...
- The Jed Lowrie Era began: There are some lineup changes that will result in short bonuses, such as shifting Carl Crawford out of the leadoff spot while he's struggling. Then there are the ones that can transform a team, as Jed Lowrie seems to have. Is it a coincidence that Lowrie's insertion into the starting lineup coincides with the start of the win streak? Possibly, but it's worth noting that Jed Lowrie either scored or drove in more than half of the 21 runs that have scored in the period. Even when Lowrie's hot streak fizzles, some, he will make the Sox' lineup one batter longer, and provide them with a much-needed lefty killer that can be put pretty much anywhere in the order.
- Josh Beckett, Josh Beckett, Josh Beckett: One start is a fluke. After two straight dominating performances, though, it's getting harder and harder to deny that Josh Beckett is, in some way, back. While Red Sox fans are still waiting for Clay Buchholz to realize that he wasn't due for that much regression, they may have found an old ace ready to hold down the fort.
While it's always a risky business drawing conclusions based on small sample sizes, the Red Sox do seem to be back. And while a West Coast trip is a daunting prospect that could set them back to square one, if the Red Sox can push through a .500-or-better record over six game set, then they will have seemingly survived the worst of things for now.
The Red Sox are playing with a Carl Crawford currently on pace to put up the single least valuable season in the history of baseball, and an Adrian Gonzalez with an OPS under .800. At .272 the team's BABIP is still below average, highlighted by the .171 of Jacoby Ellsbury (career .316) and .160 of Carl Crawford (career .329). And yet somehow, they are scoring runs by the truckload.
Before long, there's going to be no holding this team down.