The third run is the hardest one to get nowadays in Boston Red Sox Nation.
It took seven games, but the Red Sox finally got that desired third run on Friday night against the Oakland Athletics, by virtue of a David Ortiz single in the third inning that drove in Xander Bogaerts. It was the first time the Sox bats pushed more than two men across the plate in one game since last Friday’s 10-run barrage at Fenway Park against the Cleveland Indians.
Unfortunately, because the Sox could muster only three more hits the rest of the way, the long-awaited third run had nothing to show for it, as the A’s came out on top, 4-3.
It’s the growing theme of the 2014 season that is getting old. The Red Sox have received good performances from their pitching staff, only to see them wasted by an inept offense. The Red Sox bullpen allowed just one run over 3 1/3 innings Friday after Felix Doubront failed to get out of the fifth inning in his first start back from a disabled list stint.
The arms kept them in the game and put them in a position to win. A phrase used so much this season it’s cliche.
The Red Sox sit six games out of the second AL Wild Card spot, very much in the race with more than three months of baseball to play. They have the pitching to make a run, led by one of baseball’s top one-two punches with Jon Lester (8-7, 3.20) and John Lackey (8-4, 2.96) in addition to a strong bullpen.
All they need is the production we’re accustomed to seeing from a Boston lineup.
The spark needs to start in the middle of the lineup, which is in need of an upgrade. Dustin Pedroia hasn’t hit for power. Ortiz has been inconsistent. Mike Napoli, when healthy, has been his usual streaky self. Bogaerts looks like a bona-fide 3-hole hitter, but he’s still a year or two away from being that middle-of-the-order specimen.
And it’s going to have to come from the outside.
The shoot-for-the-moon move would be acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins. Just 24 years old, Stanton is the best power hitter in baseball and just entering his prime. The Red Sox would have two full years of control of Stanton, not eligible to become a free agent until after the 2016 season.
But the Marlins will likely ask a lot in return for Stanton. The belief in some baseball circles is that Miami could demand Bogaerts in exchange in addition to a slew of prospects that may include Mookie Betts, Rubby De La Rosa, Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, or Garin Cecchini.
Boston could be forced to virtually gut its system for Stanton.
Another place Ben Cherington could look to is the same place he looked to the last time he needed to make a drastic change, in 2012 — the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Red Sox issue is the Dodgers surplus — impact bats in the outfield. Los Angeles has four starting outfielders making a combined $61 million this season in Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Yasiel Puig.
Either Kemp or Ethier will be the odd man out in LA. Both players could use a change in scenery, and both would be great fits in the Red Sox outfield. With big contracts, the Red Sox could offer to eat the money on the deals for less of a ransom, as they have the payroll flexibility to do so.
Kemp, who has five years and $107 million remaining on his deal following 2014, is one of baseball’s best all-around players. He can hit for average, hit for power, run, and play Gold Glove defense in center field. The 29-year-old is Jackie Bradley Jr. with a big bat.
Ethier has four years and $71 million left on his deal after 2014 — with a $2.5 million buyout for the fourth year that makes it four years and $56 million. A right fielder, he would fill what has been one of Boston’s biggest holes in 2014. Ethier is a strong defensive outfielder who has 30-100 potential, in addition to a close relationship with Pedroia dating back to when the two players starred at Arizona State University.
The time is now for Cherington to make a move for a power bat; not only to keep Boston in the race in 2014, but so they can compete in 2015 and beyond.