It’s official: the Boston Red Sox are in trouble.
The smooth ride was bound to get bumpy at some point. The Red Sox’ 20-8 start was nice and all, but everything was going perfectly. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz were nearly unbeatable, going 9-0 in their first 10 starts. The bullpen was lights out, and featured one of MLB‘s top closers in Andrew Bailey, as well as a plethora of serviceable set up men in Koji Uehara, Clayton Mortensen, and Junichi Tazawa.
Likewise, many of the Boston hitters were overachieving. Will Middlebrooks hit three home runs in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays and seemed destined to be the next 30-HR, 100-RBI slugger for the Red Sox. Shane Victorino came as advertised, as the Hawaiian was flyin’ all around the base paths. Mike Napoli was on pace for a 200-RBI season.
The past week has been a wake-up call that the season is much longer than the 30 days of April. After their first major test against the Texas Rangers ended in a disastrous three-game sweep, the Red Sox returned to Fenway Park and lost two of three to the lowly Minnesota Twins. It easily could have been a six game losing streak had Stephen Drew not hit a critical walk-off RBI in the 11th inning of Monday’s game.
Last night, the Red Sox hit rock bottom, at least as far as 2013 is concerned. Rookie Allen Webster was rocked in a 15-8 loss that most fans luckily missed because of the epic Boston Bruins playoff win in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Red Sox bullpen has been overused. Middlebrooks can’t hit above .200. Bailey and Joel Hanrahan are both on the disabled list. They’ve been punched in the mouth, so now the real test begins. How will they respond in the face of adversity?
It all starts with starting pitching. Lester has to put the team on his back, and show that he is an ace that can stop the bleeding. His most recent start against the Rangers was a game that Boston had to win. Instead, Lester blew a 3-0 lead that the bats had given him against one of the best pitchers in baseball, Yu Darvish. If Lester wants to transcend his past, then he needs to finish games like this off.
The rest of the staff has two major duties: keep pitch counts low and pitch deep into games. The bullpen has been completely taxed of late and this type of usage will result in injury down the line.
If the Red Sox can overcome this speed bump, they will show fans that the character issues that marred the 2011 and 2012 seasons are a thing of the past. If not, it will be an interesting 2013 offseason to say the least.
So what do you think? How will the Red Sox finish the season? Can they respond to this setback and get back on the right track? Feel free to leave a comment to keep the conversation going.
Aidan Kearney also writes for his own blog aidanfromworcester.com. Follow him on Twitter @aidanfromworc, and on Facebook @ Aidan FromWorcester.