What a lousy month. And after I was so complimentary of the team following its tremendous June.
At the beginning of the month, Boston was a half game out of first place in the East and had a 1.5 game cushion on the third place Rays. But all of their injuries caught up to the Sox last month and now the team finds itself more than 6 games out with the remaining number of games getting ever smaller.
- After a .667 winning percentage in June, the Sox went 12-13 (.480) in July– a losing record that may have undone the team’s chances of getting to the post-season. Boston spent much the month with out Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, and Jason Varitek, all lost to fractures.
July was frankly a month that the team and it fans would prefer to forget. And yet, the team was strangely silent at the trading deadline, clearly content to gamble on its existing players rather than making any significant moves. Still, we must be brave, and examine where the struggles have led with only 2 months remaining.
Josh Beckett returned from injury as the month wound down, and was effective in his 2 July starts. And the bullpen had its best month of the season, posting a 3.07 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 70.1 innings. That was a significant improvement from previous months:
April: 75.2 IP / 4.16 ERA/ 1.30 WHIP
May: 77.0 IP / 4.21 ERA/ 1.26 WHIP
June: 70.1 IP / 6.14 ERA/ 1.62 WHIP
July: 70.1 IP / 3.07 ERA/ 1.24 WHIP
However, that’s where the good new ends, more or less. There were a few bright spots here and there– a sweep at Anaheim. Good hitting by Adrian Beltre and Kevin Youkilis. By by and large, there was little to be happy about.
The team’s offense took a nose dive, lacking so many key players that consistency proved difficult. The Sox set a season low in average and on-base percentage:
April: 23 games/ .478 WIN%/ .259 AVG/ .333 OBP/ .426 SLG/ .759 OPS
May: 29 games/ .621 WIN%/ .273 AVG/ .350 OBP/ .466 SLG/ .815 OPS
June: 27 games/ .667 WIN%/ .298 AVG/ .372 OBP/ .506 SLG/ .878 OPS
July: 25 games/ .480 WIN%/ .255 AVG/ .331 OBP/ .439 SLG/ .770 OPS
The Sox posted only 4.28 runs per game in July, their poorest offensive production of the year. Compare that number to June’s total of 6.14 runs per game. In fact, the team played to a run differential of zero: 107 runs scored, 107 allowed.
April: 23 games/ 5.96 IP per START/ 4.86 ERA/ 1.52 WHIP/ 1.88 K:BB
May: 29 games/ 6.32 IP per START/ 4.32 ERA/ 1.35 WHIP/ 1.61 K:BB
June: 27 games/ 6.33 IP per START/ 3.32 ERA/ 1.23 WHIP/ 2.74 K:BB
July: 25 games/ 6.17 IP per START/ 4.14 ERA/ 1.32 WHIP/ 2.25 K:BB
It was unreasonable to think that the injuries wouldn’t eventually impact the team, and so the decrease in offense is understandable. However, the pitching woes are less so. There was no excuse for the starters to falter, although Clay Buchholz did miss substantial time with a leg injury and was replaced with Felix Doubront. Doubront had a tough time in his spot starts, but being a rookie that’s not so unusual.
Wakefield and Matsuzaka also had some rough outings, as did the $80 million man John Lackey. This far into the season, such problems were extremely damaging to and already weakened team. Terry Francona’s options were limited; had he pulled Dice or Wake from the rotation, who could have stepped in? On the other hand, Wakefield in particular was a major liability, and Boston would have been better off pursuing another option.
In any event, the starters combined for a very mediocre month that saw shorter outings than either May or June.
How about a losing home record. Ugly enough for you? Going 8-8 on the road was bad enough, but 4-5 at Fenway was downright dreadful. Then there were the lineup cards, featuring such luminaries as Eric Patterson and Dusty Brown. When you’re down to what should be fourth-string players, you know things aren’t going your way.
Injuries have been the story of the year in Boston, and the team’s overall health improved very little from June to July. Worse, the time left to make up ground is dwindling. Players must not only return to action, but must make their adjustments immediately if the team has prayer of making the post-season.
The drop-off from May and June is perhaps understandable given the number of walking wounded. But it was still a huge slap in the face for fans. At the end of June, it felt to all of Red Sox Nation as though the team had turned a corner. But 30 days later, the Sox are in a poorer position than we thought we’d see.
And adding insult to injury (literally), the team has been beset by falling ratings.
Previous monthly reviews presented the team’s “Top 5″ or “Top 3 Needs”, but at this stage of the pennant race all of that goes out the window. The Red Sox now have but a single goal: to get into second place.
Besides, they failed to meet any of last month’s needs. They didn’t get healthy in July, at least not the point they need to. They did see a resurgence in the bullpen but didn’t make any trades to bolster their relief options. In fact, they sent Ramon Ramirez packing. And they didn’t fare very well on the road, playing at a .500 clip.
Unless August shows some marked improvement, this team is going home at the end of September. It’s just that simple. Of course, this month has started poorly– the team lost Kevin Youkilis, possibly for the remainder of the season. That might be a blow that the Sox cannot weather. Time will tell.
The Sox are in trouble. New York and Tampa are haggling over first, but both have a comfortable edge to work with. Whole 6 or 7 games may not seem like too big an obstacle to surmount, keep in mind that there are only 55 games remaining. If all the Rays and Yankees do is play .500 ball, Boston will need to go 35-20 to get back into the race. Not impossible, but given what we’ve seen in recent weeks, certainly improbable.
The team must have a successful August. A good goal might be to trim the lead down to 3 games or so by the time September first rolls around. That would put second place, at least, within reach because a single series could close the gap.
This weekend’s 4-game set with the Yankees could therefore be a make-or-break moment for the Red Sox.