The story for the 2013-14 Boston Red Sox thus far has been two steps forward, one step back. Boston has been maddeningly inconsistent and has yet to put together three consecutive victories. The Red Sox looked to be turning a slight corner after winning two out of three on the road against the White Sox, followed by taking two out of three at home against the Orioles, but Boston closed its recent homestand by dropping three of four, including a disastrous beating at the hands of the Yankees in the rubber-game of that series, 14-5. The Red Sox now head up to Toronto for a series with the Blue Jays still struggling to find the answers to solve their inconsistency.
The bullpen has been the only unit that has pulled their own weight thus far for the Red Sox. Late inning relievers such as closer Koji Uehara and setup man Junichi Tazawa have held their own, and the club has gotten great innings from lefties Andrew Miller and Chris Capuano. Manager John Farrell can take solace in the fact that he has one area of his ball club he does not have to worry about.
Boston’s lineup has been a mess. No one has grabbed hold of the leadoff spot as the Red Sox are missing Jacoby Ellsbury much more than they thought they would. Shane Victorino returning to the lineup with Will Middlebrooks not far behind should hopefully light a fire and give them some speed, power and consistency that they have sorely been lacking. Offense was not supposed to be this team’s issue even without Ellsbury. Boston had the best offense in baseball by almost every statistical measurement last year and has the pieces in place to handle losing one or two key cogs. The problem is that no one aside from Mike Napoli has pulled his own weight.
Pitching and defense have failed the Red Sox as well. Boston is third to last in the American League with 19 errors, a number skewed by the ghastly 14-5 loss to New York where the Sox booted the ball five times. The Sox also endured a full turn through the rotation where all five starters got pounded. John Lackey, Jon Lester and Jake Peavy have been mostly their usual productive selves, but Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront have struggled to find any sort of consistency at the back end of the rotation, making any extended run of success for the team increasingly more difficult. Buchholz has a 7.71 ERA and Doubront has failed to make it through three innings in two of his five starts, including 11 walks in 24 innings.
Boston does not have any big prospects left who can come up and solve the starting pitching woes. Buchholz and Doubront are proven young veterans and are going to have to just figure it out. The defense was mostly only an issue during the one Yankees game, and getting Victorino and Middlebrooks back should help. The main question mark is regarding the offense. Boston consistently is getting itself into early deficits and so far has not proven it has the fire power to hit its way out. Someone taking charge in the leadoff role could be all it takes to get things rolling on offense, which could in turn take pressure off the pitchers if Boston can find some early leads.
It is too early for Red Sox Nation to panic, but the fan base is starting to become a little peeved and restless with the performance of the team so far. Boston is better than this, and a rejuvenation could be in store any day now. It is still just a matter of time before they get rolling, and fans all hope a trip north of the border does them some good. Then again, maybe they just need to grow the beards back.
Commentary by Justin Hussong, Guardian Liberty Voice Sports writer covering the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers