By Pat O'Rourke @patorourke_29 on June 12, 2014
Projected by many to be American League pennant contenders going into 2014 after winning the 2013 World Series, things haven't gone as planned for the Boston Red Sox. At 29-36 as of Thursday, the Sox sit five games out of the final AL Wild Card spot. But in the marathon that is a 162-game MLB season, five game leads can evaporate quickly. And there are plenty of players on the Red Sox roster who can help turn things around.
Lester is nowhere close to the top of the list of underperforming players on the Red Sox roster. In fact, he's been pretty good. A 3.52 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 84.1 innings is nothing to complain about. But in two starts where the Red Sox needed Lester to play the role of the stopper -- May 22 against Toronto and last Saturday in Detroit -- he allowed 12 runs on 22 hits in 10.2 innings. The Sox lost both games, 7-2 and 8-6, respectively.
Ortiz has looked like a 38-year-old slugger through two-plus months of baseball. Take away the May 13-15 series in Minnesota, in which he went 8-for-14 with five extra base hits and four home runs, and Big Papi is hitting just .231 with a .407 slugging percentage and .751 OPS in 2014.
It's no secret what Ortiz can do to a lineup when he's among baseball's elite bats.
A career year in 2013 earned Nava the right to leadoff the Red Sox season on opening day in Baltimore. But it was all downhill from there. Sent down to Pawtucket after a disastrous first few weeks, Nava has been fighting himself all season. But the 31-year-old journeyman outfielder is six of his last 18 and looks closer to his 2013 self. The Sox don't need him to hit .300, but if he can hit even .275, that would be more than satisfying.
After recovering from early-season hamstring issues, Red Sox fans saw what Victorino can do to a lineup in 2013. The ultimate catalyst, he gave the Red Sox lineup a major boost when he returned from a hamstring injury in June, hitting .297 with 37 extra base hits, 13 home runs and 51 RBIs over the final four months of the season.
The one thing you can't say about Buchholz' 2014 performance is that he hasn't had his stuff. It seems to be more a matter of him trusting his stuff and trusting his body. After a similar start to the 2012 season -- posting a 9.09 ERA through his first six starts -- he figured things out and went 8-5 with a 3.08 ERA over his next 21 starts. A similar outcome would be more than favorable for the Red Sox' rotation.
Napoli appears to have the finger injury that hindered his performance at the plate for over a month resolved, which bodes well for the Red Sox' offense. Napoli provides the power bat the offense sorely lacks at the moment.
Since returning from the disabled list on Sunday, Napoli has looked more like the hitter fans saw prior to the dislocated finger he suffered on Apr. 15.
Much like Clay Buchholz, Doubront has been one of the great mysteries of the Red Sox' pitching staff. With that said, Doubront has shown to be a more than reliable middle-to-the-back of the rotation piece since becoming a regular in the rotation in 2012.
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