The blueprint for beating the Red Sox seems to have been discovered: just put a lefty on the mound, and watch the magic happen. It's hard to deny after another putrid performance against a southpaw left them shut out against Seattle in a 5-0 loss.
It's a score that implies a game that was lost by both sides of the team, but that's really not an accurate depiction of what happened in SafeCo today. The odds were not in Boston's favor with Steven Wright on the mound, and could well have slipped away early with Wright finding himself in a second-inning jam with runners on the corners and zero outs. The Mariners seemed headed for a big inning, particularly when Blake Swihart had a knuckleball get past him (hardly a surprise given his limited experience with the pitch) to let the first run of the game score and erase the double play possibility.
But to Steven Wright's credit, while he certainly did not thrive, he at least managed to survive. He kept that inning to just the two runs that were already on base, and allowed one more on a homer later. It's hard to say how many of his scarier pitches--high strikes that didn't end up being hit nearly so hard as they might have been--were actually problematic. His outing could have been much worse if the Mariners had jumped on them, but there's a big difference between what could have happened and what should have happened when it comes to guys who throw the knuckleball. So all we're really left with is what did happen: five innings, three runs, and a reasonable number of baserunners.
That's about all the Red Sox could expect from Wright, and it should have been enough to keep them in the game. It should have made this winnable. Craig Breslow should never have even been in to give up the two-run homer because the Sox should have been ahead or tied or at least close and using their better relievers.
But this game didn't feel within reach. Not after the fourth or fifth straight zero hit the board. There was a lefty on the mound, and if the Red Sox have been disappointing at the plate against right-handed pitchers, they've been shockingly bad against lefties. It was a lefty who kept them from taking advantage of Clay Buchholz' gem a couple games back. It was a lefty who kept them from making something out of a halfway decent start from Steven Wright tonight. They managed all of five hits today, and two of them never left the infield. Shane Victorino was their most competent hitter, and remains just about the only one headed in the right direction these days, shocking as it is to imagine given where he was less than a week ago.
The Red Sox rotation is far from settled, but it at least seems to be making progress. That's not so for the lineup. The players who have been bad, excepting Victorino, are staying bad. The players who were at one point good are falling fast. For some, like Pablo Sandoval, a decent hack at some righties will fix that up. For others, like Mike Napoli, it might be time to start looking for a replacement.
The Sox will finish this west coast trip with an acceptable 4-3 record. But however much slack you give a team playing three hours off their normal time, this is an offense that has been struggling for quite a while now. And after nearly 40 games, it's hard to imagine they'll just fix themselves.