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An overpowering concern for Red Sox

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Red Sox outfielders (from left) Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts celebrated their 16-2 victory over the Diamondbacks.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

The Red Sox pummeled the moribund Arizona Diamondbacks, 16-2, at Fenway Sunday. Boston's batters put a Western Kentucky area code (270) on the Monster's manually operated scoreboard in the first three innings. Mookie Betts had three home runs before the end of the fifth and the Sox had a 16-1 lead after five. Dustin Pedroia had his fifth career five-hit game .

Yowza-yowza. Baseball is easy.

This is exactly why this team is really starting to annoy me.

Some would say it's hard to be negative on the day of a 16-2 win. I am happy to oblige. Sunday's romp is a perfect demonstration of exactly why this Red Sox team is so infuriating.


They have scored a whopping 640 runs in 116 games. They have scored the most runs in big league ball. They have the second-best run differential (plus-103) in the American League. So why, oh why, are they wrestling for a playoff spot in a postseason format that accommodates 33 percent (10 of 30) of all teams in the majors?

I know why. It's because they are front-runners.

Nobody demolishes opponents like these Red Sox. Already this year we have seen wins of 11-4, 8-0, 14-7, 13-5, 13-3, 11-1, 9-1, 10-3, 15-4, 9-0, and Sunday's 16-2. When the Sox have it going, they are like UConn women's basketball. They are the Peyton Manning Indianapolis Colts that you grew to hate. They crush opponents in the early innings and play the final six frames carefree. They run around the bases and high-five and pad their stats. Swell.

It is the "contested" games that give them trouble. When things get tight, the Showtime Sox turtle. This is why they are 25-27 in one- and two-run games. They are 4-32 in games in which they score three runs or fewer. They are 5-41 when they trail after seven and 3-45 when they trail after eight.


Cherry-picking numbers, you say? Perhaps. But the one- and two-run games, the games in which they score three or fewer runs, those are commonly known as "playoff-type games.'' October baseball scores are 3-2 and 2-1. They are not 16-2.

The 2016 Red Sox are good at the easy. They are bad at the hard. And you know the old saying about baseball (from "A League of Their Own"): "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everybody would do it. The hard is what makes it great."

I put this awkward question to manager-under-siege John Farrell after the Sunday rout. Is he ever frustrated by this team's amazing ability to score 16 runs, then get completely shut down?

"I wish there was a run bank where you could open up an account and withdraw when needed,'' admitted the skipper.

The best answer for this is "that's baseball," but the accommodating Farrell tried to explain the how his powerhouse offense gets blanked so frequently by mediocre pitching.

"Our hitting with runners in scoring position is an example,'' he noted. "There's not an obvious change in approach taken, but sometimes we take big swings when we could trust in the guy behind us. You don't always have to be The Guy in that spot.''

By any measure, this is one of the most entertaining Sox teams of all time. They've got David Ortiz having his unbelievable farewell tour and a raft of young hitting talent unseen around here since the golden days of the late 1970s. They are fun. And at this hour they are a playoff team. Barely. It is going to be a blast watching them navigate the final seven weeks of the season. Too bad they only have 16 more games at Fenway.


The immediate road ahead is littered with land mines. Does anyone remember any team facing four opponents in five days in four cities in four ballparks? That's what the Red Sox are doing right now. It was Arizona at Fenway Sunday, at Cleveland Monday, at Baltimore Tuesday and Wednesday, and in Detroit Thursday. Three of those five games are day games, including Thursday's Motown matinee, which comes just a few hours after the Sox play Wednesday night in Baltimore. It is borderline absurd.

"We're not fretting the schedule,'' said Farrell. "We can only take care of the things we can control. We knew this was coming and we look forward to it.''

It's rigorous. No home games and no layups. Cleveland, Baltimore, and Detroit are all playing for their own playoff lives. It's good that the Sox cleaned up on the bums from Arizona because most of the rest of Boston's games are against teams that still think they have a chance to win in 2016. Even the (gulp) Yankees.

Strap yourselves in, folks. Homers and shutouts. Heroes and villains. It's going to be a wild ride.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.