For seven fleeting games, it felt to manager John Farrell as if the Red Sox had finally started piecing together the puzzle that’s been their offense this season.
They hit .288 as a team. They scored 36 runs. They used the deep ball when needed. They manufactured runs when needed. The pillars of their lineup produced and so did the plug-ins during the seven-game win streak.
Nine games later, the Sox found themselves back in a rut, putting runners on base but not driving them in and starving for runs on a 2-7 road trip.
Solving their problems offensively has been a constant conversation in the clubhouse, Farrell said prior to Thursday night’s 5-2 victory over the Indians.
“We’ve had this conversation with individual players, the staff, that we can’t abandon the strengths that this team or these individual players have shown in the past, and that is to put up relentless at-bats, get on base,” he said. “Overall, I still think we do a good job of getting on base. I firmly believe that this will turn. There’s confidence in this group of players to not only put together a quality game but to put together a streak of wins that gets us back in the mix.”
The Red Sox hit just .227 on their road trip and left 66 runners on base. Their .237 average with runners in scoring position ranks 22d in baseball.
Dustin Pedroia went 9 for 34 with a home run and four RBIs on the trip. David Ortiz went 7 for 35 with two home runs and seven RBIs. But Farrell insisted that their lack of production isn’t the reason for the Sox’ failures.
“We need every guy in our lineup,” Farrell said. “It’s not just focused on those two guys. We need everyone to pass the baton and work as a group and when we’ve done that, we’ve been a very good offensive team.
“Yet a lot of people are going to focus on David and Pedey. When they drive people in, sure we were on a good streak of seven straight wins. But we need every guy up and down that lineup to play their part.”
Even with runs being so scarce, Farrell said he had no intention of being overaggressive on the base paths chasing scoring opportunities.
“We can’t begin to force things with a reckless abandon,” Farrell said. “That ends up compounding the situation we’re in.”
But with the offense searching, Farrell acknowledged there’s been a burden on the Sox pitching staff, which knows it may not always have wiggle room with which to work.
“We know we’ve been in a stretch for quite some time that runs are a premium,” Farrell said.
“Our pitchers live it every day. They’re well aware of where we are as a team. That doesn’t say that they go out to try to put up a zero or they have to throw a shutout to be in the mix for a win. We’re just playing a game that we’ve got to be complete in all areas. Our margin of error is a little bit less right now.”
Bogaerts gets rest
Xander Bogaerts went hitless in his last 16 at-bats of the road swing. When he watched Bogaerts’s at-bats end in quick outs, Farrell could see some of the 21-year-old’s signature patience waning.
When the Sox returned home Thursday, Farrell could sense Bogaerts needed some time off to gather himself. So he left Bogaerts out of the lineup, plugging in Brock Holt at third. Jonathan Herrera was at short.
“I feel like over the last four, five games, you see a little bit of maybe some fatigue and some at-bats that have been uncharacteristic for him,” Farrell said. “Some early-pitch outs, which is not the norm. I just felt like he could benefit from a day down.”
Bogaerts had appeared in 39 straight games, dating to April 27. An off day was due, Farrell said, especially with the Sox on the last leg of a run of 36 games in 37 days.
“We’re rotating guys through as best we can to give a breather when needed,” Farrell said. “Xander got his breather today.”
Drew may need MRI
Stephen Drew had an ultrasound to look at the oblique muscle that has hampered him the past week and the Sox will determine whether an MRI is needed after the shortstop goes through baseball activities Friday.
Farrell said the hope is that everything will check out and Drew can see game action over the weekend.
“He’ll ramp up the activities,” Farrell said. “If there’s any kind of reproducing of the symptoms then [an MRI] would be administered at that point. Hopefully, he gets through tomorrow and we’re looking for game activity on the weekend.”
Drew first felt tightness last Monday and was left out of the lineup against the Orioles. The injury bit him four games into his return to the Red Sox.
“He’s frustrated by it,” Farrell said. “At the same time we can’t risk any longer-term situation.”
Nava finding stroke
Daniel Nava’s 3-for-4 night gave him his second multihit performance in his past five games. What Farrell noticed most about Nava’s three singles was that the line-drive stroke that Nava seemed to have gotten away from earlier in the season had returned.
Since returning to the Sox after spending 24 games in Triple A Pawtucket, Nava’s hitting .281 and has at least one hit in five of his past six starts.
“To his credit, he’s made an adjustment with his setup at the plate,” Farrell said. “Not as spread out, he’s on top of the baseball with more of his line-drive stroke that we know him to have and he’s putting some good swings on some balls. He’s not lifting the ball as he was earlier in the season.”
They’ll talk later
Farrell said he hasn’t had much time to talk about All-Star week with Indians manager Terry Francona, who will be a part of Farrell’s coaching staff in July, along with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “We’ve got a number of things that we’re dealing with in-house before even turning our attention to that,” Farrell said. “[The Indians are] playing well and yet we’ve got to get our own house in order to get back on track.” . . . Will Middlebrooks and Clay Buchholz will begin their rehab assignments Friday in Pawtucket. Buchholz is expected to throw five innings. Farrell said he’s hopeful that Shane Victorino’s rehab assignment will begin as soon as Saturday. “We’re starting to get some guys on the mend,” Farrell said . . . The Sox held a moment of silence before the national anthem to remember Don Zimmer, the former Boston manager who died last week.