The Red Sox did well a week ago, winning five of six on the road and bouncing back from their 2-10 start. And heading back east to Camden Yards, they had a chance to come home to Fenway with a winning record.
So it was especially disheartening to watch them drop the first two games against the Orioles. Jon Lester was strong on Thursday as Boston salvaged the series with a 6-2 win, but both Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett got knocked around to start the three-game set. As April winds down, fans are still waiting for this potent offense to get in gear. All too often, the lineup has offered more blunder than thunder. Carl Crawford has yet to break out of his spring doldrums, and Adrian Gonzalez has but one home run. It borders on the unbelievable.
Tuesday’s game was a 4-1 defeat in which Buchholz allowed a career-worst 12 hits in 6.1 innings. The outing was also his longest of the season. With four earned runs allowed, his ERA stands at 5.33. Simply put, he’s not reliable at the moment.
Beckett gave up back-to-back homers and another four eanred on Wednesday as he came back to earth after several fantastic starts. Kevin Youkilis blasted a three-run homer late, but it wasn’t enough.
On Thursday, the top of the order came through. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez combined for eight hits and five RBI as Lester kept the Orioles under control. So it was a good end to the series. But really, this can’t be satisfactory for the team. It certainly isn’t for me.
The Sox had the chance to get back to Fenway at 12-12 or even 13-11. After the first couple of weeks, that would have been a welcome result. Instead, the club is still sub-.500 at 11-13. The best-case scenario for the month of April has now shifted, and the Red Sox can do no better than .500. That assumes they beat Seattle on Friday and Saturday.
There’s really no one to blame for this. The newcomers Crawford and Gonzalez haven’t been as good as advertised, but it’s tough to complain about their respective performances too much. They’re adjusting to a new environment and are both facing considerably more pressure than they did in their former cities. And after a horrid beginning, the pitching has really come around. This entire year has been about bad timing and a perplexing general lack of offense.
The good news is that Jacoby Ellsbury is coming to life. With consecutive three-hit games, he has his OBP up to .326. He’s got six doubles and fourteen RBI on the year, which is some nice unexpected production. Ellsbury is the catalyst; his recent hot streak has him back in the leadoff role, and if he can keep getting on base, then the runs will follow. Couple all of that with Jed Lowrie’s explosion (1.023 OPS) and Boston has to like what its getting from the fringe players.
Although when this lineup truly gets going, there won’t really be any fringe players with the possible exception of J.D. Drew and the catcher position…
This series got me down. I need a sweep of Seattle to lighten my mood. That’s no small order given that King Felix looms for Sunday. At the least, Boston needs good outing from Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey against Jason Vargas and Doug Fister. Two wins would give the Sox an even mark for the month. Then we can turn the page to May and start over fresh.