SEATTLE — If you’re serious about making something out of your season, you can’t come into Safeco Field and be content with a split of a four-game series.
Sunday’s win was grand, the Sox’ first in six extra-inning games this season, but it was way too hard. The Sox should have taken three out of four or swept this team, and they know it — although they still feel good about what might be coming.
“We feel like we’re playing like we did last year when we played .650 ball after the start we had,” said Dustin Pedroia, whose eighth-inning homer tied the score at 1 and was a key blow in Boston’s 2-1 win in 10 innings. “We lost a tough game to Felix Hernandez; two walkoff games. There’s a lot of baseball to play. We always want to win series and sweep series, but it didn’t happen this time. Winning today avoided something we didn’t want to face, but we saved it and we head to Oakland in the right frame of mind.”
One can understand losing to King Felix, that’s almost a given (in a game they should have won), but to lose to a team that was hitting .197 at home twice in walkoff fashion because your offense can’t get a key hit is just mind-boggling.
This Seattle team is terrible, so bad that manager Eric Wedge had to hold a team meeting to air out his players after Aaron Cook threw an 81-pitch complete game against them.
This is the part of the schedule you should be taking advantage of. The Yankees were playing a decent White Sox team. The Rays were playing a rising Tigers team. The Blue Jays were going up against the Angels and the Orioles were battling the Indians.
All you had to do is play the Mariners, who can’t hit in their own ballpark.
If the Red Sox had taken care of business here they’d be in second place. As it stands they are tied with Baltimore for the second wild-card spot, but it should be better.
What’s saved them is the Jays, Orioles, and Rays all lost and have had their own struggles while the Yankees look as if they’re going to run away with the AL East even with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the disabled list.
Maybe David Ortiz, Boston’s lone All-Star, who won the game with a long sacrifice fly to right in the 10th inning, was right when he said, “These guys can really pitch.” But really? This is barely a major league team. They can’t even reach their own fences at Safeco yet they get two of four against the Red Sox?
“I’ll tell you what, they never throw you a pitch over the plate,” Ortiz said. “They were tough. If they pitch like that, they’ll have three Cy Young winners.”
The Red Sox have taken leaps since their miserable April, but they get stuck in the mud at times. They have a chance to really excel, because they try hard. Effort is not the issue. They seem to care about winning.
But they have not learned to seize the moment, and until they do that, they’ll be in position to pounce but never actually take a bigger leap.
There are still frustrating things that crop up. On Sunday it was Felix Doubront. Four and a third innings, 103 pitches?
Five walks against this collection of weak hitters? Do you think with a 94-95-mile-per-hour fastball and his stuff that you would just throw strikes and take your chances? Didn’t he watch Cook’s approach in one of the bright moments of the series for the Red Sox? The approach was let them hit it, because most of the time, they couldn’t.
They have been unable at times to take advantage of great situations which could make their life easy.
The Red Sox put their first two batters on in the second inning — and nothing. Will Middlebrooks struck out. Daniel Nava popped to second, and after Kelly Shoppach walked, Nick Punto lined to third. You’ve got to get a run out of that situation at least, don’t you?
Pedroia came through with their first clutch hit.
Then in the 10th, pinch hitter Ryan Kalish stepped up with a double off the right-field wall. He later scored on Ortiz’s sac fly, salvaging a split.
Some of this series was painful to watch. Except for their four-homer outburst in Cook’s complete game, the Sox offense was awful in the clutch.
The Sox were sometimes sleeping in Seattle in a series that should have been a layup.
It should have been Phil Esposito with an open net. It was a clear lane for Michael Jordan. It was a 10-foot putt for birdie for Arnold Palmer. It was Jerry Rice awaiting a pass from Joe Montana having beaten his man by 20 yards.
And what did the Red Sox do?
Mixed bag. Not quite enough.
We certainly understand that having to come back from a slow start isn’t always easy. Sometimes you expend so much energy just to get back above water you’re so exhausted that you tend to fall back. One can understand that happening against a good team, but against a team that is one of the worst in the game, there’s no excuse.
A split is better than losing three out of four or being swept. But at some point you’ve got to show you can take it.
You can’t be content with a split against this team, yet as the Red Sox left here for Oakland, the players were generally happy at their salvage job.
The consensus was that the balls that are getting hit at people will begin to fall in. That the stars like Adrian Gonzalez will begin to show who they always have been. Pedroia promises, “I feel like I’m going to get red hot.”
This was a good save on the final game of the series.
But it must get better. There aren’t many times when you’re given the gift of playing the Mariners four games.
A team has to be better than the Red Sox were this weekend.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.