Reeling Red Sox next for Jays
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
|David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox says the only time for his team to panic would be if they were not in the playoffs. (MIKE STONE/Reuters)
For the Boston Red Sox, it was supposed to be a relaxing trip through the month of September, getting players healthy and setting up a playoff rotation.
By the end of this week, Boston could be back to that very same scenario but, in the meantime, Red Sox Nation finds itself under siege from the south. The Red Sox have won just two of 11 games in September, while the Tampa Bay Rays have been on fire, winners of seven of eight entering play Monday night and eating up ground at an alarming rate.
At the conclusion of play on Sept. 1, the Red Sox were in first place in the American League East, a half-game up on the Yankees and nine ahead of Tampa Bay.
Within three days, they had fallen behind the Yankees but still maintained a healthy nine-game lead on Tampa for the American League wild card playoff spot.
Now, just 10 days later and with only one win in their last eight games and just two wins in all of September, the Sox are in panic mode. Entering play Monday night, Boston’s wild card lead on Tampa Bay was down to 31/2 games. In Tampa on the weekend, the Rays swept the Red Sox.
The Jays are in Boston for a two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday, with Tampa Bay coming into Fenway right on their heels for four pivotal games next weekend.
On the surface, it would appear the Boston funk is all about pitching. Even in September, the offence has scored at a rate of about five runs a game, which is a healthy number. On the pitching side, though, opponents have scored 73 runs in 11 games this month. The Boston pitching staff has a 6.61 ERA in that span.
If you take a closer look at the losses, however, you see a total team collapse. In the nine losses, Boston has been outscored 66-28. The two wins — a 14-0 drubbing of the Jays and a 12-7 slugfest with the Rangers — have skewed the offensive stats for the month.
If you care to look even further back, Boston has been in neutral for a good portion of the second half. Since Aug. 1, a span of 40 games, they are under .500 (19-21), largely because of mediocre pitching (4.59 ERA).
Now that the offence has started to sputter, this $164-million US payroll isn’t paying the kind of dividends general manager Theo Epstein was expecting.
Three-fifth of the projected rotation — Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka — are on the disabled list. John Lackey generally has underperformed (12-12, 6.30 ERA). Jon Lester has been the one constant (15-7, 3.07) but even he took one on the chin on Sunday, lasting just four innings against Tampa Bay in a 9-1 loss.
After that loss in St. Petersburg, a Boston reporter suggested to David Ortiz that the Red Sox were not the type of team to panic.
“If we keep playing like that, we’ll be home in October, how’s that? At this point you panic,” responded Ortiz, who is batting .310 with an OPS of .842 this month.
“Hell, yeah, you’ve got to panic. But you’re not going to do anything panicking. Of course you’re freaked out. You go on this road trip 1-6. That’s not good. We’ve got these guys (the Rays) breathing down our necks.
“When we go back to the house (Fenway Park), that should help us. This road trip was very bad. We need to come back fresh on Tuesday and go back to where we were.”