In Friday night’s 6-2 loss at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, the Boston Red Sox fell victim to a late insurance rally by the Tigers, as they fell for the fourth straight game. In a three-week stretch of streaks, with a seven-game winning streak sandwiched in-between a 10-game and current four-game skid, the Red Sox inconsistencies offensively have plagued the defending World Series champs. A sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians showcased how the Red Sox are nowhere near their pace of last season, and how the offense has plenty of holes that need to be fixed.
With David Ortiz hitting well below his average of a year ago, the normal pop in the lineup is missing its biggest bat. Mike Napoli‘s stint on the disabled list hurts the batting order for protection on Ortiz, with the likes of AJ Pierzynski often hitting behind Big Papi. The worry from opposing pitchers is significantly dwindled with an aging catcher hitting fifth instead of a power threat in Napoli. Add in a nagging thumb injury to Dustin Pedroia, who is having one of his worst seasons offensively in his career, and the Red Sox are in trouble.
With outfield questions looming and a left side of the infield in peril, the three bright spots in this 21-game stretch have been three rookies: Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt and Rubby De La Rosa. After an early season struggle, combined with constant flip-flopping between third base and shortstop, Bogaerts has found his swing, leading the team with a .297 batting average and a .389 on base percentage. Now that Stephen Drew has been signed, and presumably the shortstop question has been answered, Bogaerts can focus on playing third base and continuing his improvement in the batter’s box.
Holt, a utility man who has played all around the field, is swinging another hot bat. Since his call-up from Pawtucket, Holt has hit .314, including another hit and run scored against the Tigers on Friday night. Holt and Bogaerts hit one and two respectively in the Red Sox lineup and have sparked the offense, but the production after Ortiz has killed Boston in their recent skid.
De La Rosa was outmatched by Detorit starter Drew Smyly on Friday night. De La Rosa was unable to match his impressive MLB debut from last Saturday, as he gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings while taking the loss. De La Rosa’s fastball, which topped out at 96 MPH, was left high in the zone, and the talented Tigers’ offense took advantage. Ian Kinsler and Torii Hunter smashed back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning to knock out the Boston starter. Victor Martinez added another solo bomb off Chris Capuano in the eighth inning to pad the Detroit lead.
In particular, the Red Sox coughed up an early lead again, and left countless opportunities on the bases en route to their fourth straight loss. The Detroit bullpen, which has struggled all season long, held Boston to only two hits over the final three innings. In a non-save situation Joe Nathan gave up a single to Grady Sizemore, but induced a game-ending ground ball from Jonathan Herrera to keep Boston on the downward slide.
If the Red Sox cannot string together hits and consistent starting pitching, they will be in trouble not only this weekend against the Tigers, but for the remainder of the summer. In a battle of aces scheduled for Saturday, Jon Lester will try to stop the bleeding against Max Scherzer.