The Boston Red Sox are not a team that is synonymous with eight-game losing streaks. On their way to the title last season, they did not have any losing streaks longer than three games, so this is not just a blip on the radar. The panic button has to be smashed down because the cute World Series hangover is spilling over into a full-fledged disaster. Boston has issues aplenty and no easy fixes to mitigate these problems. The Red Sox have also fallen into last place, but all negativity aside, there is reason to still be positive.
In the series opening 1-0 loss down in Tampa Bay, not only did the Sox fall into last place, but they also lost oft-injured outfielder Shane Victorino to yet another hamstring injury. It was the same injury that kept him out the first few weeks of the season, and leaves a significant hole both in the lineup and in right field for a team that can ill-afford to be without one of its more important players. The struggling Daniel Nava was summoned back up from Triple-A to replace him, and Boston desperately needs him to rebound from his tough start and hit more like the guy who hit .303 with a .385 on-base percentage last year.
The Red Sox generally need everyone to step up. As David Ortiz flatly put it after the loss to the Rays, “we stink.” The only subtractions from last year’s team are Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, so it isn’t as if this is a drastically different club. Injuries have not been a big issue. The issues have just been inconsistency and underperformance. Fans can take solace in the fact that this team is not just sitting by idly and accepting the futility. John Farrell is shuffling his lineup around until something clicks, including sliding Dustin Pedroia back down to No. 3, moving the rejuvenated Xander Bogaerts up to the second slot, dropping Victorino and Grady Sizemore down, amongst other things. The talent is there for the Red Sox, but it is obvious they just need to get things to click.
Another big problem that has persisted has been the back end of the starting rotation. Jon Lester and John Lackey have been stalwarts, but Jake Peavy has fallen on some tough times. Worst of all, Felix Doubront injured himself on a car door and Clay Buchholz has seemingly forgot how to pitch. Farrell has also taken note of that and vowed to get him right, because his fall has been far too steep and inexplicable following his 12-1 campaign a year ago. The Red Sox need him at his best to get everything moving in the right direction.
Fans realize it, analysts realize it, and most of all it appears that the Red Sox themselves realize that it is definitely time to hit the panic button. This may not be such a bad thing, because Boston needs to recapture the intensity they had last year when the entire city rallied around them following the Boston Marathon bombings. They weren’t always the most talented team on the field, but they always gutted it out and found ways to win. The clutch hits in big situations have avoided them so far, but if they can weather this grueling storm they should find the law of averages being more kind to them pretty soon.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Boston Red Sox