Boston Red Sox star hitters are wilting in the August heat

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 12: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox hits a game tying RBI single during the ninth inning of a game against the New York Yankees on August 12, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.(Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 12: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Boston Red Sox hits a game tying RBI single during the ninth inning of a game against the New York Yankees on August 12, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.(Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The core of the Boston Red Sox lineup is slumping at the plate

The Boston Red Sox sent a trio of hitters to the All-Star game last month but none of them have performed to their reputations since the calendar flipped to August.

On Saturday, the Sox managed to score only two runs on eight hits in a one-run loss to the New York Yankees. An inability to come through with runners in scoring position spoiled a chance to clinch their first series victory over an AL East opponent, aside from the rare one-game series win. Boston’s only runs were driven in by the bottom of the order without the benefit of a hit. Jarren Duran was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Reese McGuire followed with a sacrifice fly.

Boston’s bats were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and the star trio anchoring their lineup were the biggest culprits. Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez were a combined 1-for-14 in the game and 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

According to MassLive’s Christopher Smith, Martinez holds himself and his star teammates accountable for the lineup’s struggles.

"“It’s tough. It’s the core of the lineup,” said Martinez. “Us three, we’ve got to hit. If we don’t, most of the time it’s tough to win games. That’s on us. That’s on us to figure it out.”"

Unfortunately, those three haven’t been able to figure it out this month, which explains why the Red Sox are struggling to tread water by going 5-7 in August. The numbers from their three best hitters have been brutal this month.

Devers: .136/.208/.318, 45 OPS+
Bogaerts: .222/.234/.356, 63 OPS+
Martinez: .195/.244/.244, 38 OPS+

These three have been well below-average for at least the last couple of weeks. They have combined for only three home runs and 10 extra-base hits.

All three of these hitters falling into a slump at the same time is hindering Boston’s chances to climb back into the playoff race. That’s without taking into consideration that former All-Star and prized free-agent acquisition Trevor Story hasn’t played since getting drilled on the hand over a month ago. The Red Sox are now 4.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot and they desperately need more production from the core of their lineup if they have any hope of making a late-season run.

A second-half fade could have consequences for the players that extend beyond this season. Devers doesn’t have anything to worry about. He’s still having a strong season overall and he’s going to get paid, if not with an extension this winter then certainly if he reaches free agency after next season.

The same can’t be said for Martinez, who will hit free agency after this season. His home run power has mysteriously vanished but Martinez was still setting himself up for one last solid payday with a healthy batting average and plenty of doubles in the first half of the season.

His current slump has dropped his batting average to .278 to go along with a .781 OPS. Aside from the miserable COVID-shortened 2020 season, those numbers would be his worst since before his breakout year when he became an everyday player for the Detroit Tigers in 2014.

Martinez turns 35 years old next week. If he doesn’t finish strong, he’ll enter free agency on the heels of a down season with the stench of 2020 still lingering. Martinez isn’t going to come close to the five-year, $110 million deal he signed with the Red Sox the last time he tested free agency. The way his season is trending, he’ll be lucky to get half of that this time.

A rough patch down the stretch isn’t going to sway Bogaerts’ decision to opt-out. He’s still underpaid on his current contract and has an opportunity to lock in more money on a long-term deal. Despite his slump this month, Bogaerts is still third in the American League in hits and batting average.

Some of the shine from a stellar season will wear off if Bogaerts doesn’t pull out of this slump though. He has a history of second-half fades, owning a career .299/.364/.468 line in the first half but hitting .280/.342/.438 after the break.

Bogaerts turns 30 in October. Between his age, questions about how much longer he can stick at shortstop and a disappointing second half, there are enough concerns for potential suitors to be somewhat hesitant to meet his asking price on the free-agent market. Bogaerts is still going to get paid more than the remaining contract he plans to opt-out of. However, he might struggle to find the type of deal that he expected when he had a case for being the best shortstop in baseball during the first half of the season.

There’s plenty of time remaining this season to flip the narrative with a strong finish. If at least two of these bats get hot, they are capable of carrying this team down the stretch, giving them a realistic shot at a Wild Card spot. They need to start showing signs of life soon though. If they continue to fade, it will cost them – perhaps in more ways than one.

Next. Top 5 home run hitters in Red Sox history. dark