The Red Sox seem to have invented time travel.
That, at least, is the only explanation I can come up with for this game. Or, more specifically, for the fact that they just played the same game that they played five days ago on May 16th.
Oh, sure, there were minor differences. The game was, for instance, played in Fenway instead of SafeCo. Against the Rangers instead of the Mariners. The final score was 3-1 instead of 2-1. But we'll chalk that up to Daniel Nava being sent too far back and stepping on a butterfly or something. Because everything else was just too damn similar to actually be considered a unique game.
The Red Sox got another good start from Clay Buchholz. It wasn't the insanity he managed against Seattle (eight innings, one run, eleven strikeouts). But after a couple leadoff baserunners (one coming on a bunt) reached in the first, he certainly settled into his performance. Xander Bogaerts ended up dropping a possible (if unlikely) double play ball in the inning, allowing a second run to score on a ground out where only one should have, but Buchholz got a pop-up from Elvis Andrus to end the inning without letting it get worse.
And really, that was about it as far as serious danger innings are concerned. He did give up a leadoff homer to Mitch Moreland in the fourth, but that was an isolated blip on otherwise clear radar. When Buchholz did give up baserunners, it was often just to wipe them out with a double play. All told, it was another strong start from the rotation, making for eight straight games now where the starting pitching was not the problem.
And yet, the Red Sox are just 4-4 in those eight games because their offense is perhaps as bad as it's been in more than a decade. Wednesday night was viewed as encouraging because, if the Sox only scored one run, at least they only scored one because they were stranding a bunch of baserunners on ill-placed rockets. That, it turns out, is an enviable situation when you compare it with how bad they look against lefties like tonight and, yes, five days ago. Just switch out J.A. Happ for Wandy Rodriguez. Hell, at this point, you could probably put Allen Webster on the mound and so long as you told him to give that whole southpaw thing a shot this team would go quiet into that good night.
Just about everyone was bad in one way or another offensively. Only Xander Bogaerts is arguably free of blame after reaching base three times, though you could choose to blame him for literally running into an out, not being able to dodge a batted ball from Daniel Nava on a hit-and-run play. But when one guy is 2-for-2 with a walk and nobody else so much as reaches base twice, maybe don't go after them for flukes.
That's not to say there weren't outliers, though. Or one in particular: Mike Napoli. Giving him credit for four hits these last two games is a bit generous, since one of those came on Elvis Andrus flat-out dropping a ground ball. But even ignoring that, he'd looked like an honest-to-God baseball player again. Tonight, though, facing the lefty he should thrive against, Napoli was completely helpless. And it only got worse in the ninth when he went chasing back-to-back breaking balls down, away, and out of the zone for a strikeout. So long as he swings at that pitch--and he seems perfectly willing to every time--he should never reach base against a right-handed pitcher again. It's hard to remember that he was trending up just 24 hours ago.
The Red Sox are back to where they were after the Blue Jays series now. Three games south of .500 and headed in the wrong direction. At this point, .500 might not be a stop on the way back to contention anymore, but an optimistic dream for a team that doesn't seem destined for anything better.