ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Prior to Wednesday night’s 9-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, Red Sox manager John Farrell said he wasn’t ready to press the shuffle button on his underperforming lineup.
“I have given it some thought,” Farrell said before the game. “And yet the one thing that I don’t want to create in there is more uncertainty. At a time when you could understand if some frustration starts to filter in, I want there to be some stability and some continuity to the work that we’re doing. That includes them understanding that there’s a lot of belief and trust in them as players.”
He added, “It’s important for those players to know that we believe in our guys, that we like this team. It’s our job to help support them and get them back on track and the track they’ve been very successful on.”
A genius, that Farrell.
He spoke, and his players responded with eight runs in the third inning. The inning started with a Stephen Drew walk and included a Drew grand slam off Jamey Wright, who relieved David Price when he left with left triceps tightness.
Farrell has to be given kudos for his patience.
With a team going 4 for 42 with runners in scoring position and sporting a lackluster offense for about 11 games, it would have been easy to make wholesale changes. This reporter suggested in a blog that perhaps Dustin Pedroia should go back to his signature No. 2 spot in the order.
Farrell had an army of people in his office after Tuesday’s game trying to figure things out. They decided on doing nothing. Sometimes when it’s broken, you don’t necessarily have to fix it. Sometimes you have no idea how to fix it, but you tinker just to make you feel better or to show that you’re trying something.
When you look at this Red Sox lineup, it’s hard to fix. There are some hit-or-miss guys, players who go through significant peaks and valleys and have done so throughout their careers. The players they acquired — Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, and Mike Napoli — have been very much like that in their careers.
Victorino has been very consistent this year.
Gomes has a few hits, but they’ve been big ones, including a run-producing single in the eight-run inning Wednesday night.
Napoli’s cold spells are as severe as his hot ones. Wednesday night he was hot again with a big double in the huge inning.
Farrell has said that you just ride those down times. The team did it with Drew earlier in the season.
Even David Ortiz went through an 0-for-17 slump after hitting at a torrid pace through the first 15 games after his activation from the disabled list.
Pedroia has been the model of consistency and despite an outstanding batting average, which soared to .341 during the game, he has one home run, which is why it was suggested here that he go back to No. 2.
There have been two other players of concern.
One is Jacoby Ellsbury, whose role has been inconsequential so far.
We have not seen the power he exhibited two years ago. Not last season and not this season.
Ellsbury kept the third inning going when he singled after Drew’s walk, but he ended it with a strikeout in his second at-bat.
Then there’s Will Middlebrooks. The Red Sox counted on Middlebrooks to be one of their righthanded power hitters. He needs to be a threat in the middle of this lineup.
He homered and doubled Wednesday night, but so far this season, save for three home runs in one game against Toronto, he hasn’t often been that threat.
Yet, whether it’s out of necessity or because they have no other third baseman, the Sox have stayed in Middlebrooks’s corner, and we’ll see if that pays off.
The Sox shouldn’t have lost Tuesday night’s game on a popup lost in the roof. They lost because they had no offense to speak of after Ortiz hit his three-run homer in the first inning against Matt Moore.
Ortiz is correct when he said that over the last two seasons when things go bad with the Sox, they go bad for everyone. The Sox can’t seem to keep two or three guys hot long enough to carry the load for a while.
It’s because the lineup is void of another impact hitter. Which is why Ellsbury and Middlebrooks need to step up their games.
They can both be impact hitters.
This can’t just fall on Pedroia, Ortiz, and Napoli. Pedroia has been Boston’s most consistent hitter, Ortiz and Napoli are the power sources.
There’s never a whole lot a manager can do in these situations except hope things turn around quickly. And they certainly did in the third inning.
“We didn’t go 20-8 at one point with a completely different set of players,” Farrell said.“We’re not going to run from them. I really like our team.”
Like we said, patience. How long can he ride Ellsbury’s .314 on-base percentage?
When the batting order was posted Wednesday, Ellsbury was in the No. 1 hole.
In one big inning Wednesday night, it appeared there was a cure for the Sox’ recent ills.
Is it sustainable?
We’ll see if the Sox can be more than just a one-inning wonder.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.