Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Every time it has looked like the Red Sox are finally putting it all together, they find a way to lose their next game. Despite multiple opportunities to get back to .500, including last night’s game, the Sox haven’t been at the .500 mark since April 4, when a 6-2 loss to the Brewers put them at 2-2. Here are the three main reasons they are struggling to get back to even:
1) Inconsistent starting pitching: John Lackey will toss a gem and then Felix Doubront will lay an egg. Jon Lester will pitch a great game and then Lackey will struggle. Then there’s Clay Buchholz who hasn’t at all resembled what we expected after last season. The combined numbers of the starters aren’t terrible, but that’s mainly because of the dominance that Jake Peavy has shown in the early going. If the Sox are going to make another deep run this season, they’re going to need all of their starters to be more consistent.
2) Inconsistent lineups due to injury and illness: I addressed this issue in an earlier article, but the Sox still haven’t been able to have their lineup at full strength as much as they would like. There was the one game this past Friday, an 8-1 win over the Blue Jays, where John Farrell was able to pencil in a lineup resembling what they envisioned coming into the season. But in the two games since, Xander Bogaerts came down with an illness, Shane Victorino was given the day off as he continues his injury recovery and David Ortiz was sat because, even though we forget it sometimes, he’s 38 years old and needs the occasional day of rest. As I mentioned, the starting pitching has been shaky. They need more runs on the days they do get strong outings from their pitchers, and having the guys that were supposed to be their big offensive contributors (that includes you, Nava) at full health at the same time as each other will lead to more wins.
3) Difficult early season schedule: Five of their eight series’ so far this season have come against AL East opponents. The combined overall record of each team in the division is not very strong, but don’t let that fool you. They’ve been beating up on each other all month. Call this statement Red Sox bias if you want, but the AL East is the strongest division in baseball by a long-shot. Following a three-game series at home against Tampa Bay that begins tomorrow, the Sox will get an AL East break until May 20th. That’s not to say the schedule is necessarily easier: Oakland, Texas and Detroit are all difficult opponents. But I’m curious to see how the Sox, and the rest of the AL East, fare against non-divisional opponents.
No one should be panicking yet; there’s still a lot of games to be played. But in 2013 the Sox were over .500 for the entire season. This is not something they’ve had to deal with in a long time. So what will end up being the biggest factor in getting them over the hump? Or will they be permanently stuck in record purgatory?