August 10 - Today: The Long Slide
We start with the end of the line. This last month has been, largely, doldrums. Going into August 10, the Red Sox were four games back of the Rays, and six games back of the Yankees. With math heavilly against them, the Red Sox have been left hoping for miracles in hot streaks and sweeps of opponents. With each day, though, the last vestiges of hope have been rapidly disappearing, to the point where it's entirely gone for most.
Notable games include the back-to-back one run losses against Toronto and Texas, breaking up what could have been a six-game winning streak that could have been one of the hot periods the Red Sox desperately needed. Also, the 1-2 series loss to Tampa Bay that sealed the deal in even some of the most optimistic of minds.
(Period Record: 12-9)
July 14 - August 9: One Last Shot
Coming out of the All-Star break, there was a feeling that the Red Sox had done what they needed to do to stay in the race. They were going to get healthy, come out on fire, and catch at least one of the Rays or Yankees. They were just three games out of a playoff spot, after all, with plenty of time left.
Instead, the Red Sox never really did get healthy. Sure, Buchholz came back, but he wasn't out that long. And Victor Martinez was a great improvement over the pathetic group of backups that had been trotted out. But Dustin Pedroia didn't return at all in time, Jacoby Ellsbury's comeback was brief and unproductive, and to top it all off, they lost Kevin Youkilis.
With all this going on, the team was busy failing its best opportunity to make a race of it miserably. They started off horribly slow before salvaging a split on their West Coast road trip, and kept on splitting when they needed to sweep. Bad teams like the Athletics and Indians played spoiler, and kept the Sox from getting to where they needed to be, with the Yankees managing to hold the Sox in check with a final split to end this disappointing post-break period.
(Period Record: 13-12)
June 29 - July 11: Hanging In There
Not a pretty stretch for the Sox, but with a few dangerous weeks ahead of them, they survived a stretch that could have put them much further out playing at half strength. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay got five shots at the Sox in this period, taking four wins from them. Just plain bad timing for the Sox.
(Period Record: 5-6)
June 25 - June 27: Getting Hurt
If you're looking for the turning point of the season, this is it. In the span of three games in San Francisco, the Red Sox would lose Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, and Clay Buchholz to the DL. Jason Varitek would follow a few days later, precipitating a month of sub-Mendoza production from the catcher's spot. From this point on, the Red Sox would never again really be anywhere above half-strength.
The Red Sox did win the series. But it's no coincidence that they would go 30-27 after this point.
(Period Record: 2-1)
May 18 - June 24: Riding High
The start of May 18 was the last day the Red Sox started below .500. Despite a depleted outfield and Tim Wakefield making regular starts, the Quadruple-A Red Sox managed to storm their way into playoff contention. On June 20, they were tied with the Rays, and just a game back of the Yankees. On June 24, Dustin Pedroia hit three home runs to help top the Rockies 13-11. This was the high point of the season without a doubt.
(Period Record: 25-10)
April 4 - May 17: Digging A Hole
It can be hard to remember that this was how the season started, but sure enough, the Red Sox' fall cannot be blamed on the last few months alone.
Playing through injuries that seem laughably light now, the Red Sox slumped and slumped hard. BABIPs were low, David Ortiz sucked, Jon Lester was slow out of the gate, we got our first look at a pathetically sparse bullpen, and the Red Sox lost game after game.
While you can point to the one San Francisco series as a turning point for the Red Sox, you can point towards this early period of mediocrity as what lost the season for them. As much as they were down Beckett, Ellsbury, and Cameron, the Sox had more than enough of their better players on the field to do better than they did. Getting swept by the Orioles, dropping four straight to New York and Kansas City after the opening night win, a four game sweep from Tampa Bay--this is what killed off the "margin of error" for the Red Sox that they really could have used these last few injured months.
If they had gone just a reasonable 22-17, everything would look so much different today. Instead...
(Period Record: 19-20)