Something is amiss all of a sudden. The Red Sox, so consistent for so long, are beginning to show signs of wear, losing three straight and six of their last eight.
They lost three out of four to the Royals and then two out of three to the Blue Jays, and dropped Game 1 of a three-game series against the Yankees, 10-3, Friday night, unable to solve Andy Pettitte until the seventh inning.
The timely hits haven’t been there. The shutdown pitching isn’t there. The defense — three more errors Friday — has been shaky.
Some of the flaws are starting to show.
There’s no shutdown No. 1 starter with Clay Buchholz still out indefinitely, and Felix Doubront had nothing positive to offer Friday in allowing seven runs. There’s no righthanded pop in the lineup — Mike Napoli is slumping and Will Middlebrooks has yet to regain his power stroke — so lefthanded starters are starting to dominate the Sox.
There’s still time to add a righthanded bat, though the Sox have passed on a few guys, including Mark Reynolds, who hit a two-run homer in his first Yankees at-bat. The Sox didn’t feel Reynolds, who’s shaky defensively at third, was a fit. Plus they already have a high strikeout guy in Napoli.
Alfonso Soriano would have been ideal, but it seemed the Sox were never interested. They passed on Michael Young at the trade deadline and haven’t bitten since he cleared waivers.
The Sox have managed to stay in the top spot in the AL East, but now Tampa Bay is winning again, the Yankees have found their offense, and Pettitte, who was pitching as if his career was about over, has bounced back in his last two starts.
The Sox are only one game ahead of the Rays and actually trail by one game in the loss column. They just came off a 4-6 trip through Houston, Kansas City, and Toronto, and get the Yankees before they head out for six interleague games against the Giants and Dodgers.
The Sox are so concerned about the quick turnaround from Sunday night’s home game to a game in San Francisco Monday night, they changed their travel plans and are now flying out Monday morning and will head right to AT&T Park upon their arrival.
Are the pitchers getting tired? Are the Sox losing their offensive mojo?
So good for so long, the team’s imperfections are showing in the dog days of August.
It’s all about energy, staying fresh, and kicking it into gear for the last chapter of the season.
With the additions of A-Rod, Curtis Granderson, Soriano, and Reynolds, the Yankees can hang in for a wild-card run.
The Sox were hoping to get a similar boost from Middlebrooks, but his impact has been quiet. Maybe it is time for Xander Bogaerts, or a deal that brings another righthanded bat to the lineup.
The Sox are 22-18 against lefthanded starters and face another tough one Sunday night in CC Sabathia. They struggled against Pettitte, and also had trouble on the road trip against Brett Oberholtzer, Bruce Chen, and Mark Buehrle.
“They’re all quality lefthanded starters,” said manager John Farrell. “They are lefties who have attacked the strike zone early in the count. If there is one common thread, that’s it. Our approach is to grind out at-bats and amp up pitch counts. They've been efficient.
“We walk away [Thursday in Toronto] with a 2-1 loss [to Buehrle] leaving 12 men on base. We have to keep creating opportunities and eventually it will turn.”
Farrell said he wasn’t alarmed by the recent stretch, but the players seem to know that they have to pick it up.
“It’s somewhat reminiscent of a stretch in early May [losing three straight to Texas] where we created a number of opportunities that we didn’t cash in on. I look at it now in the same vein,” the manager said.
“We’re not going to make wholesale changes. We’re going to continue with our approach that’s been proven successful in the long run. We have to stay with our day-to-day approach.”
As for the errors — three Wednesday night, three Friday night — Farrell said, “They’ve come in bunches. Whether there’s fatigue setting in defensively, you’re going to go through stretches like that.”
And the Red Sox are going through one right now.
Farrell’s right that maybe it’s similar to early May, but back then they had a lot of time to straighten things out. The Red Sox are now in the final six weeks. There’s a West Coast swing next week and a lot of games left within the division.
If this is a blip, as Farrell suggests, it can’t get much bigger. If there’s a little panic in Red Sox Nation it’s because we lived through the September 2011 collapse and that changed our mind-set forever.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.