In some ways it’s heartening, at least for those of us who aren’t part of The Nation, to see the Red Sox backing up. Because no team that trades Mookie Betts, then doesn’t really do much in the following offseason either, should return to the playoffs after only a gimmick season. Fenway Sports Group doesn’t deserve that, even if the fans and players didn’t do anything wrong (I mean it’s Red Sox fans, they probably did something wrong).
For the first half of the season, the Sawx were one of the better stories in MLB, a squad pretty much forgotten about, or derided as mediocre at best, led the AL East from Day 1 thanks to the Yankees’ inability to stay healthy and the Rays’ struggles with sequencing. The Sox were definitely maximizing everything they had, getting just good enough work from Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, and reclamation project Nick Pivetta to get to a bullpen that was lights out while being made up of guys who spend the rest of their time getting paid cash to fill out police lineups. The batting lineup still features J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and is getting surprising work from Kiké Hernández.
The fear was that their rotation and a pen full of “guys” would eventually start to act like “guys,” but hopefully could avoid returning to the level of “guys” before a playoff spot was wrapped up. At the moment, they’re kind of looking like Kramer trying to finish the AIDS Walk.
Boston lost their ninth game in 11 last night, and it looked a little familiar. The offense spotted them a 4-1 lead. But Eduardo Rodriguez couldn’t get out of the sixth, and then Garrett Whitlock and Matt Barnes each took a flamethrower to their own face — Sox lose, 8-4. Barnes has had a habit of late of being a back-alley pyrotechnic show, as George Springer turned him into chum a couple times in Toronto over the weekend.
Barnes is the real worry. In the first half of the season, he was nearly unhittable and rocked a 6-to-1 K/BB ratio. But in the last month, his strikeouts have dropped by half, and hitters are slugging 110 points higher off of him. Perhaps even more panic-inducing is that his hard-hit-ball percentage against him has doubled from the first half of the season to the second.
He’s hardly alone. Adam Ottavino has a 7.29 ERA over the last month. Hirozaku Sawamura is walking 25 percent of the hitters he’s seen in the last month. And the starters don’t really take the pressure off the pen. No one’s averaging over six innings per start.
The offense has gone cold the past nine games, scoring just 32 runs. But they’ve lost games scoring eight, five, and four runs, which generally shouldn’t happen.
Help could be on the way as Chris Sale is slated to start on Saturday. But coming off Tommy John, he’s hardly going to save the bullpen innings as he will be closely watched and sheltered. If the staff as a whole has run out of gas, Sale isn’t going to do all that much to refuel it.
Last night’s loss left them five back of the Rays for the division, and clinging to a two-game lead over the Yankees and three over the Jays for the last spot in the coinflip. They’ll certainly get to determine their fate, as they have nine games left with the Rays, which would feel a lot better if they hadn’t lost their last five against them. They have six left with the Yankees, who they’ve clubbed all year, and maybe that’s the difference.
As all of us find out every day it seems, you can’t outrun your nature. If you keep sending “the middle” to the mound, they’re eventually going to pitch like “the middle.”
Let’s end with a golazo: Nicolas Lodeiro of Seattle Sounders dialing one up from one of the rings of Saturn against Leon in the Leagues Cup last night
Try and get on that shuttle, Bezos… you dickwad.