Friday, June 24, 2016

Wasn't Fenway Supposed to Be a Fortress?

After the Red Sox took two of three in Minnesota on June 12th, I looked at the upcoming ten game homestand against three AL foes and thought it was one they needed to go at least 7-3 on.

It was against two quality teams, Baltimore and Seattle, and one that got off to a great start but had fallen off a cliff in the previous three weeks, the Chicago White Sox.

I thought the Sox could take two of three from both the Orioles and Mariners, and three of four from the struggling White Sox, who had lost 18 of their last 24 games, and were swept in Cleveland the previous weekend.

It was a miserable homestand.

Baltimore took two of three, but the Sox bounced back to take two of the three from Seattle. Chicago came into Fenway and took the first three games, two of which made Sox fans crumbly mightily.

The Sox had the bases loaded in the ninth inning with none out, and couldn't push a run across. You knew the White Sox would win, and scored two in the tenth to put it away. On Wednesday, they blew a 6-4 lead in the 8th as the once-great Koji Uehara gave up two long home runs, and Chicago pulled away, 8-6. Koji wasn't totally to blame, as the Red Sox left 12 men on base.

Thursday was like pulling teeth, as the Red Sox fell behind 4-1, and then 7-5, before tying it up in the 8th on a Dustin Pedroia single. Xander Bogaerts, who is making a good case for AL MVP, won it in the botto of the 10th with an RBI single.

Instead of beating up on a struggling team, the Red Sox managed to salvage a win on Thursday.

The offense is struggling. We all knew they weren't going to score eight runs a game and there would be a cooling off period. And I really don't want to see Hanley Ramirez mugging for the cameras in the dugout after hitting a home run. (Hit a few more Hanley, before telling the media what you really think of them.) Chris Young went down with a hamstring injury, and the bench is really weak. (Brock Holt and Ryan Hanigan are on rehab now and will be back very soon.)

The only two starters you can count on right now are David Price and Steven Wright. Rick Porcello is mediocre, and the fourth and fifth spots are a black hole right now. Eduardo Rodriguez was clearly rushed back to the rotation and belongs back at Pawtucket. And don't get me started on Clay Buchholz.

The pen is a mess. The only ones you can count on out there are Craig Kimbrel and Robbie Ross. Junichi Tazawa gave up another bomb on Thursday, but the offense bailed him out. Neither Matt Barnes nor Heath Hembree inspire much confidence right now, but then again, who else are you going to use right now?

The Sox are fortunate they aren't in a strong division. Baltimore has not run and hid, but Toronto is right along side them. As I write this, they are 1 1/2 games behind the Orioles in second place.

As usual, fans are screaming for changes NOW, but as I have written before, there's still a month to go until the trade deadline, and no team with any quality players to trade aren't in any rush to deal.

The Red Sox face the AL team with the best record this weekend, the Texas Rangers. They have a very favorable schedule in July, facing many teams under .500, like the LA Angels, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. They need to play decent ball between now and the deadline in five weeks and then bring in reinforcements. They have 25 games in July, 18 of them are at Fenway Park. And wasn't their home ballpark supposed to be a fortress?

It was a tough week to watch this past week. The team is 8-12 in June and need to step it up to stay in the race. Let's hope we aren't in the middle of seeing a death spiral that kills the season like we saw in 2014 and 2015. We'll see.

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