This weekend’s series with the Tampa Bay Rays will determine if the Red Sox are alive or dead in the Eastern Division race for the playoffs. The Division is too bunched to declare them legally dead in July, but what they do against their most bitter rivals will render the verdict.
The Rays are a team on the rise and a serious contender in the East. Even their depleted pitching staff could keep the Red Sox off the scoreboard, and if it does, the Red Sox should start planning for next year. Not only have the feeble bats failed to score runs in the last week, they have forced the staff to pitch from behind. This is not how to win baseball games.
Two of last year’s most consistent hitters, Dustin Pedroia and Daniel Nava, remain mysteries in a line-up filled with holes. If David Ortiz and these two were to heat up in the next week, the rest of the team would probably come around, but when the hitters at the top struggle, you can’t expect the bottom of the line-up to pull them along.
More situational hitting could probably improve the Red Sox performance and keep them out of the rally-killing double play. Pedroia is probably hurt, but he is always good enough to stroke the ball to right, instead of trying to rip it into left. Even Ortiz could exploit the shift and take some easy hits to left. He can’t carry the team with occasional home runs, so why not work on getting on base? The Red Sox are terrible bunters, but maybe they should be working on that. Play Jeremy Herrera over the weekend. That man can bunt. The Red Sox did this when they were hitting well last year, but when they are not hitting well, they each try to make the difference with one stroke. If they need an example, watch how Tampa Bay plays. Learn from your enemy.
The season hangs on knowing this enemy and beating them with every weapon in the arsenal. The hope that last year’s Red Sox will reappear has reached its tipping point. It looks like a good team on paper, but the proof lies in the execution. The clock has run out on second chances.