"Well, Clay, I suggest you pitch better." (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
When we did this last week, it seemed like the Red Sox were at low ebb. They'd come home after a successful road trip through the Central, only to fall on their faces against Oakland. Didn't seem possible that things could get worse. And yet somehow, they did. Boston got swept over the weekend by Baltimore, the final loss coming in 17 brutal innings on Sunday. They then went on the road and lost two out of three to Kansas City. And finally, in the latest nadir in a season of ever-deepening nadirs, Josh Beckett, already under fire for treating his off day like an off day, got shelled by the Cleveland Indians and booed off the field.
After last night's win, the Red Sox are 13-19. They're still in last place. They're third in all of baseball in runs scored, and dead last in runs allowed. Every single game carries a glimmer of what this team ought to be, and somehow it doesn't turn out. The starters get left in too long, the offense wilts at the most critical times, key players suffer fluke injuries... Something always just goes wrong. There's still time for things to start going right, but that's not going to be the case much longer.
Full recap after the jump.
The Red Sox continued to rearrange deck chairs this week, sending Clayton Mortensen to Pawtucket and bringing up Daniel Nava. Nava, as you may recall, hit a grand slam in his first-ever major-league at-bat. As such, he is officially clutch, a gamer. A guy reminiscent of a young Yaz (seriously, someone told me that when he came up in 2010). He'll get on base a bit, muck up a couple of easy fly balls, and then head back down to Pawtucket as soon as Mark Melancon's deemed ready. Exciting stuff.
The roster situation is actually getting tricky these days. As Marc wrote on Monday, the bullpen, so problematic early in the season, is suddenly overcrowded. Mortensen went down for Nava not due to performance, but the simple fact that he had an option left. And with both Junichi Tazawa and Mark Melancon excelling in Pawtucket, it seems likely that even more room will have to be made. Who to let go? Matt Albers seems one likely candidate, as the least-reliable reliever of late.
Speaking of reliable relievers, it's the most wonderful time of the year again. The strawberries are in bloom, the days are growing longer, and Andrew Miller starts to look like a worthwhile pitcher again. Marc broke down Miller's latest mechanical change. This one's totally going to stick, and Miller will become the new shutdown reliever the Sox need. We just need to believe. And drink heavily.
It's not just the bullpen that presents a roster headache. Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks has been taking full advantage of his chance in the majors, thumping the baseball to the tune of a .742 SLG while playing slick defense. Kevin Youkilis, the incumbent third baseman, is still on the disabled list, but what happens when he's ready to play again? Ben took a look at the Red Sox' options.
One final roster note: the Sox acquired Scott Podsednik from Philadelphia. So if Boston finds itself in a position to win the 2005 World Series through grit and hustle, we're all set. Otherwise the PawSox just got 65% scrappier.
With the Sox scuffling, it's natural to wonder how they'd be doing had they not traded away certain players. Marc gave us the rundown on four of those departed players. Short version: they're mostly doing fine, but none of them would be saving Boston right now. Mainly since none of them is a worthwhile starting pitcher (sorry, Kyle). Along the same lines, a visit from the Cleveland Indians has brought quite a few former Sox back to town. Matt Sullivan discussed them, and the Indians generally, with Indians blogger Lewie Pollis.
There are two approaches to figuring out why a team is underperforming. If you're a credentialed journalist, you attack a player for not providing you with a three-paragraph justification of his every off-field activity, while claiming the memory of a dead man as your motivation. We're not qualified to do that here, so instead we look at on-field performance and try to analyze it. Marc looked at Boston's oddly struggling defense, and Josh Beckett's disastrous start on Thursday. Ben broke down Adrian Gonzalez's historically terrible game on Sunday, and the exact depth of the hole the Red Sox have dug for themselves. Matt Sullivan went over Jon Lester's shrinking strikeout rate, and what it means for the Red Sox' theoretical ace.
The Sox try for two wins in a row today behind Felix Doubront. Here's hoping.