Same old, same old.
Lots of chances to win. Lots of opportunities staring them right in the face. But same old results. Just when you think the Red Sox might be turning the corner — scoring 10 runs Friday after a 5-2 win Thursday — they muff a chance to win a series with a 3-2 loss in the 11th inning to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
The word “boring” is starting to creep in to conversations about this team. You never want to be that.
And we certainly understand that when you have a losing team, that word, that feeling, will eventually filter into the conversation. Last year’s team was exciting, especially when Jacoby Ellsbury stole bases, the Sox played great defense, and they got the home run ball. Last year’s Red Sox got the big hit when they needed it. This year, they’re 3-6 in extra-inning games, and 8-15 in one-run games.
But too often this season, fans are leaving Fenway Park early. Now, we understand Sunday was Father’s Day and there might have been dinner reservations, etc., but too often this season the ballpark has been clearing out early. Even in close games such as Sunday’s.
Are the Red Sox that boring? There’s no question they need another hitter, and have for some time. They need someone else they can rely on in the middle of the order. The offshoot of that could be that David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, who have been inconsistent, get better pitches to hit.
Of course, you have to give to get, and to this point general manager Ben Cherington hasn’t been willing to give, which is why his moves have consisted of signing two free agents, Stephen Drew and Andres Torres.
What’s Cherington waiting for? Well, he’s seen an upswing from Daniel Nava. He sees Shane Victorino on a rehab assignment in Pawtucket, and the Red Sox want to look at Will Middlebrooks in the outfield.
But some of this stuff won’t happen for a while. They need reinforcements now. They can’t lose more ground, even if they’re in the hunt for the second wild-card spot.
While this patience is at times rewarded, I think we can agree that it’s about time the Red Sox bring in an outfielder. They need a productive hitter who can be a middle-of-the-order force.
In addition to Ortiz and Napoli’s inconsistency, Dustin Pedroia is not having a good offensive season.
I digress because even when Pedroia isn’t hitting, he makes a difference. On Sunday, he saved a hit with an amazing play to rob Jason Kipnis, and then his hustle prevented a double play, as the Sox scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning.
But the rest of the game for the Sox was an exercise in offensive frustration. They had a runner on with one out in the sixth and A.J. Pierzynski knocked into a double play. Drew, who went 2 for 4, singled and stole second with one out in the seventh. But Jackie Bradley Jr. for some reason swung at 3-and-1 pitch and popped to center at a time when the Sox needed base runners. Brock Holt struck out to end that inning and strand Drew at second.
In the ninth, Pierzynski and Grady Sizemore drew one-out walks. Drew got the count to 2-and-0, but kept taking pitches and eventually struck out. After a wild pitch advanced the runners to scoring position, Bradley made up for his poor at-bat with a walk. Bases loaded. Just one hit needed. But Holt grounded out to end the inning.
While Ortiz knocked in a run in the first, they needed him to do something dramatic in the eighth or 10th inning, but he struck out twice. Ditto Napoli in the 10th. And Pedroia led off the 10th with a tapper back to the pitcher.
These are the guys that need to step up their games. They’re the middle of the order, the highest paid. The Red Sox were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, which was better than the Indians’ 0 for 5.
This team is relying way too much on Holt to save the day. Nava drew three walks, which is a good thing because it shows he’s slowly coming back to the grinding hitter he used to be. But in the ninth, he led off by taking a called third strike. In the 11th, another strikeout.
We understand the Indians have hard-throwing relievers for the late innings. John Axford was getting it up there at 97-99 miles per hour, but he was also wild, and the Red Sox simply couldn’t take advantage.
“We had opportunities, the eighth and ninth inning, in particular,” said manager John Farrell. “We walked the bases loaded in the ninth and a base hit away or a swing away from ending it right there. It’s been elusive. I can’t say that we change our approach. One through nine it’s not like we’re going about it differently. But it’s been elusive.”
“It’s frustrating when you can’t get the big hit to help you win a game,” said Sizemore, who hit some balls hard but had nothing to show for it as his 0 for 4 dropped him to .216. “Just keep grinding. Get people on base. Just not getting the big one when we need it. I think the guys are pressing a little bit. We hit the ball hard. We hit it right at guys. It just doesn’t seem we can get a hit to drop when we need it the most.”
Pierzynski, who went 0 for 3 with a walk to drop to .269 on the season, said, “I can’t speak for anyone but myself. We’re doing everything we possibly can. We had bases loaded as a result of good at-bats. If Kipnis doesn’t make a nice play on Brock, things could have been different. We put good swings on the ball but we had nothing to show for it. Nothing you can do about that. It’s the way baseball goes. Just put in your work and hope you can get something to fall in. Once you hit the ball, you can’t control where it goes.”
It’s too bad. The lack of timely hitting puts a lot of pressure on the pitching staff.
Brandon Workman, who went six innings and allowed five hits and two earned runs, deserved better. And you can’t hang this one on Junichi Tazawa, who allowed the winning run.
This is all about offense. Right now it’s offensive, it’s frustrating, and is it also boring?
That’s not the trifecta you’re looking for. Time to do something to shake it up.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.