It’s two-thirds through the season, and the Sox are losing a game at Fenway they had well under control. After a typically uninspired West coast swing the Sox returned home on Monday, and almost squandered a ninth inning lead on Tuesday. We got to witness the closer being pulled for a set-up man. Matt Barnes rescued Craig Kimbrel by striking out Mark Texeira.
Wednesday John Farrell pulled Drew Pomeranz right before he imploded in the sixth inning, but then rewarded Bucholz for saving the inning by replacing him with Barnes, who got hit around in the seventh. From then on the bullpen, Arbad and Tazawa, served up fat ones for the Yankees, and they scored five runs. Ross entered in the eighth and threw two wild pitches to allow two more runs. How can an entire bullpen collapse in a matter of two days?
Meanwhile the heart of the Red Sox order from Bogaerts to Ortiz to Ramirez to Shaw has lost its collective punch. They are not hitting sharp outs; they are beating the ball into the ground or popping it straight up. It’s a hitting funk to match the bullpen malaise. To be fair, no one is even pitching to Papi. He’s getting the courtesy walk 2-3 times a game.
When there is widespread failure on a baseball team, it is tempting to blame the manager, so why should I resist temptation? John Farrell has tremendous talent on this team, and I include the pitchers, so how can we blame the field personnel? When a team is struggling, as the Sox did on the West Coast, it is the manager’s job to re-group when they come home, shake up the line-up, wake the sleepers, or get aggressive on the bases. Nothing is happening to indicate that team is rejuvenating.
The saddest one is the usually reliable Bogaerts, who looks lost at the plate. He’s late on most swings and he has even begun to strike out on the low outside pitch. Someone needs to give him a transfusion of hope or at least a way to scratch out some hits. Sure the guy is still hitting .300, but he is easy pickings for even average pitchers right now.
It’s August 10, and I am ready to say that the Sox will turn it around in the next week or swoon in a most disheartening way. They have to stop loading the bases without scoring a run. They have to swing at first pitches when their opponents are handing out strikes, They have to shake up their bullpen, starting with the hapless Tazawa. Bring back Joe Kelly. They have to stop grooving the first-pitch strike. There are no free strikes, except the ones thrown to Red Sox batters.
I may be looking for scapegoats, but something tells me Farrell’s mettle as a manager is getting tested. I hope he passes.