CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein shakes hands with Jarrod Saltalamacchia #39 of the Boston Red Sox before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs on June 15, 2012 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Another week in the books, and the Red Sox are still sitting in last place. This week, it's mainly the offense that's to blame, as the pitching staff actually did quite well. Boston's staff didn't give up more than four runs in any game since last Saturday, and yet Boston went 2-4 in those games. They faced some of the top pitchers in the NL over that span, but scoring 18 runs in six games (10 of them on Wednesday) is not the sort of performance this offense should be providing.
That it's the middle of June and we're still having this "hey, one part of the team is doing great, if the others can get going, look out" discussion is frustrating to say the least. But there's really not that much else to say. Adrian Gonzalez is still slumping. Dustin Pedroia's still clearly dealing with that thumb injury. The outfield is still made up of Scott Podsednik, Ryan Sweeney, and Daniel Nava (and now Nava's hurt). What's going wrong is pretty clear, but it's unclear that there's any solution other than waiting until slumps are broken and health returns.
Recap after the jump.
Hey, look, an injury report. I believe the last time I got to not write one of these up was sometime prior to spring training. Hoping to have a recap that's injury-free before the All-Star Break. Everyone wish real hard. First, the good news. Cody Ross and Aaron Cook have both begun their rehab assignments. Cook, of course, had his knee filleted by Chris Davis in his first and only appearance for the Sox, and Ross decided to go all Stanislavksi with his Pedroia impression. Having Cook healthy is nice enough, but the real gain is Ross. Having back on board an outfielder who was in the top five on the depth chart going into the year would be pretty sweet.
Now, the bad news. Rich Hill, who missed much of last season due to an elbow injury which ultimately required Tommy John surgery, again finds himself on the shelf. With Franklin Morales around, and Andrew Miller strangely effective in a "nobody look at him or breathe on him" kind of way, the Sox are decently stocked with lefties in the pen, so Hill's absence shouldn't hurt too badly. In smaller news, a number of Sox are dealing with the classic "nagging injuries." Little, non-critical injuries that aren't enough to put a player on the bench are pretty common in baseball, but with the Sox' depleted depth, they can wind up dragging down the roster's overall effectiveness. "He'll be fine if he sits a day" doesn't work if the team is fighting to stay above water and the backup is Nick Punto.
But hey, Daisuke Matsuzaka's back! That's exciting, isn't it? For certain definitions of "exciting," anyway? Matsuzaka got his first start since Tommy John surgery on Saturday, and he wasn't half bad. Actually, he wasn't half bad yesterday, either. Of course, in his two starts, the Sox scored a combined 2 runs, which is not terribly helpful. Part of that was facing Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Dempster (a running theme of the last week). Part of it was bad luck and general underperformance. The bad luck, at least, ought to turn around. And as for the guy Matsuzaka's filling in for? Well, young Daniel Bard is down in Pawtucket, and starting to look a bit better.
As for the rest of the rotation, it's still a bit of a mixed bag, as Ben discussed on Thursday. No one's been truly dominant, no one (with the arguable exception of Bard) has been Lackey-level godawful. Jon Lester, the ostensible ace of the staff going in, has been just mediocre much of the time, and not remotely the fastball-slinging, oddly-accented Washingtonian we're used to watching. Marc covered some of the encouraging (and discouraging) signs surrounding Lester. Clay Buchholz, on the other hand, who started the season about as badly as it's possible to start, is now absolutely dealing. Marc looked at what might be behind this shift, and whether this might be the real Buchholz back to stay. Finally, there's the completely unexpected story of Felix Doubront, solid major-league pitcher. He's been striking guys out all year (6th in the AL, tied with James Shields), but he's struggled with efficiency. It's possible that he's beginning to figure that out, too.
The month began with the amateur player draft, and the Sox have been busy ever since. Marc gave us a rundown of Boston's overall signing strategy under the new CBA.
July's just around the corner, and we all know what that means. Fireworks, the horrible, baseball-less wasteland that is the All-Star Break, and the trading deadline. With that deadline on the horizon, all eyes are on Kevin Youkilis. The slugging-when-healthy third baseman has seen his job put in jeopardy by the rise of rookie star Will Middlebrooks, and other teams are apparently sniffing around. However, with Youk's performance less than stellar, it's possible that teams wouldn't be heavily interested anyway, or at least not interested enough to part with any top prospects. It's a delicate position for the Sox front office, and should get mighty interesting as the summer wears on.
And the summer is indeed wearing on. With half of June already in the books, Boston sits at 31-33, 7.5 games back of New York for the division lead. Their run differential's a fully respectable +23, but the record just isn't there yet. Ben gave us another look at where this puts the Sox as they decide whether to run for the pennant or the exits this year. Given the closeness of the league, the players the Sox should soon be getting back, and the number of Sox who are slumping, things could look up in a hurry. But the season's not going to pause and wait for Boston to sort things out.
Lester vs. Samardzija at Wrigley tonight. Enjoy the weekend.