ARLINGTON, Texas — The Red Sox are 11 of 22 in stolen bases this season, the worst rate in the majors. Their seeming determination to run into outs has been especially pronounced in recent games. The Sox have tried seven steals in the last 13 games and been caught five times.
The Sox tried what manager John Farrell called a “sneak attack” Saturday night, having backup catcher David Ross attempt a straight steal of second base in the second inning of a scoreless game.
Ross, a 37-year-old with two stolen bases over 13 seasons, was out. In an era in which teams have come to embrace the value of outs, the Sox are giving theirs away.
“Not good is how I look at it,” Farrell said Sunday before the Sox tried no steals during a 5-2 victory against the Texas Rangers.
The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury, who fled to the Yankees as a free agent, left the Sox without their best threat on the bases. Ellsbury led the American League with 52 steals last season and no player on the roster could approach that.
But other players getting caught is only making a deficiency even worse.
“The efficiency rate is alarming, almost to the point of saying that we need to shut down the running game unless it is determined by us that we can be 100 percent sure, or more than 50 percent sure, of success,” Farrell said.
“We’re always going to look to take the extra base whenever we can. But the straight-out steal has been something where we’ve given away far too many outs on the bases.”
Farrell said the Red Sox would seek opportunities if pitchers are slow to the plate and certain runners are on base. But they’ll be looking for better odds than they have so far.
Their 11 steals are 28th in baseball. Only the Cardinals and Marlins have fewer. The Sox have by far the lowest percentage. Only the Mariners (15 of 26) are below 61 percent. Teams generally aim for 75 percent.
The Red Sox were fourth in the majors with 123 steals last season, getting caught only 19 times. Ellsbury accounted for 42 percent of the steals but Shane Victorino was 21 of 24 and Dustin Pedroia 17 of 22.
Victorino has one steal in one attempt in 13 games since coming off the disabled list. Pedroia is 2 for 6. Jackie Bradley Jr. leads the Sox with three.
Because the Red Sox were so successful and efficient last season, Farrell believes opponents are defending the steal better.
“That’s had an impact against us,” he said.
Farrell said part of the reason the Sox ran as much as they did last season was his wanting to establish an “aggressive mind-set” with the players. He also liked the idea of base stealing disrupting the focus and tempo of the opposing pitcher.
But they’re going to think hard about it now.
“We’ve got to be cognizant of what’s taken place,” Farrell said.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks was in the lineup then scratched about an hour before first pitch because of a sore right hand.
Middlebrooks was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning of Saturday night’s game but stayed in. But after taking batting practice Sunday morning, the Sox changed the lineup and started Jonathan Herrera at third base.
Middlebrooks said there was no structural damage to his hand and he hopes to play Tuesday in Minnesota.
“He was in the cage swinging early. Felt like he couldn’t really fire with the swing. We kept him out. We’ll see how he feels on Tuesday,” Farrell said. “If there’s added tests or imaging that’s needed on that, we’ll take a look at it at that point.”
Middlebrooks broke his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch in 2012. But this injury is more to the bottom of his hand.
The Sox were 4-2 in the season series against Texas and took two of three at Globe Life Park. They had not won a season series against Texas since 2008. That also was the last year they won a series at Texas . . . Most of the Red Sox had some piece of pink equipment as part of baseball’s annual Mother’s Day celebration to raise awareness for breast cancer. Jonny Gomes, David Ortiz, and A.J. Pierzynski were among the players who used pink bats. Others had pink batting gloves, wristbands, or cleats with pink accents. There were special pink baseballs used in the games on Sunday . . . Farrell said the Sox spoke to Bradley about his getting thrown out at the plate in the second inning Saturday night. They felt he got a poor jump on Victorino’s two-out single. “It shouldn’t have been that close given who was on second base,” Farrell said.
Mike Napoli was 1 for 4 and has reached base in 31 consecutive games. That’s now the longest active streak in the game with Toronto’s Jose Bautista and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado failing to reach Sunday . . . Lefthander Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless eighth inning, striking out two. He has struck out 19 over his last 12 innings without a walk. For the season, Miller has faced 63 batters and struck out 23 of them . . . The Red Sox are now 10-4 when facing a lefthanded starter. In the American League, only the 9-2 Tigers are better . . . Koji Uehara seems to be over his little bump. He has thrown five consecutive scoreless innings and struck out seven . . . The three-game series drew 134,763 fans . . . Sunday was the first time in 37 games the Red Sox scored in the first and second innings . . . Third base coach Brian Butterfield follows the Patriots closely and is very excited about the signing of undrafted free agent tight ends Joe Don Duncan of Dixie State and Justin Jones of East Carolina. Duncan, Butterfield said, is a player to watch come training camp.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.