Nothing like getting home from a West Coast road trip. The Red Sox can recover their swings away from the West's yawning stadiums, haunted by the ghosts of slowly-strangled ISOs. And last night, they took full advantage of Fenway's friendlier dimensions, putting up eight runs against the first-place Yankees. Unfortunately, New York shared in the benefits of a small park, and scored ten against Josh Beckett and the oddly ineffective bullpen.
So Boston now sits 8.5 games back, losers of four straight, with the fourth-best run differential in the American League. Carl Crawford's in Pawtucket, Jacoby Ellsbury's in Portland, and the All-Star Break's almost here. The pieces are sitting around for a sustained run, and they just can't seem to put the damn thing together.
It's been a long, difficult season to watch, and this week ranked among the more frustrating so far. Total offensive collapse out west, followed by the long overdue benching of an MVP, and a dispiriting loss to the Yanks. Half the season's in the books now, and I still have absolutely no idea what kind of team we're looking at. It didn't stop us from trying to figure it out, though, and this week's stories reflected that strange combination of hope and confusion that we've all become too familiar with this year.
Pre-doubleheader recap after the jump.
Should have known that last week's quiet, happy injury report was an illusion. This week saw two more Sox hit the disabled list. After a disastrous start in Oakland, Daisuke Matsuzaka was sent to the DL with a sore neck, or perhaps simply with, as we put it around my house, a sprained good-at-baseball nerve. Either way, it clears up the question of the six-man rotation for a little while. Worse news surrounded the infield, where Will Middlebrooks continued to battle his hamstrings, and Dustin Pedroia was placed on the DL after injuring his right thumb again. This leaves Boston's infield production in the capable hands of Nick Punto and Mauro Gomez. No word on how this will affect the Sox offense, but Harpoon's stock is up three points since they were handed the reins.
These hits really couldn't come at a worse time for Boston, with July's schedule looking like a gauntlet of awful. The Red Sox are looking at a month filled with the top teams in the AL, and they're apparently going to have to get through much of it without Pedroia, and perhaps with Middlebrooks at less than full health.
There is a bit of good news, as Carl Crawford got in a few starts for Double-A Portland this week, and played for Pawtucket last night, putting him on track for a post-All-Star return. Jacoby Ellsbury played for Portland last night (and from my vantage point in left field, looked pretty spry), and could also return quite soon. This leaves the Sox in a bit of a quandary roster-wise, but given how desperate they've been to have three outfielders, any outfielders, healthy at one time, facing tough cuts is a nice change.
Two of Boston's outfielders found themselves at the center of discussion this week: one left, and one made clear that he deserves to stick around. Darnell McDonald was designated for assignment last week to make room on the roster for Josh Beckett, and the Yankees, ruiners of all that is good that they are, claimed him off waivers. Worse still, they made him cut his hair. In happier news, Daniel Nava has been surprisingly good for Boston this year, and Matt Kory put together a few thoughts on how he's done it.
Ben ran through the members of the Boston rotation, and ranked them in order of performance to this point. Beckett was first prior to last night's outing, and... well, that he might still merit first place says a lot.
Matt Sullivan related the latest chapter in the time-twisting tale of Ryan O'Malley, newly hired to write about the Sox for one of the local papers. No word yet on whether he'll eventually give up on serious writing to retweet chicken and beer jokes, but one assumes it's only a matter of time.
Doubleheader today, folks. Franklin Morales early, Felix Doubront late. Beat the Yanks, boys, we could all use a happy outcome.