Felix Doubront has been a surprise bright spot this season, going 7-3 with a 4.24 ERA, 61 strikeouts, and just 21 walks.
32-33. That’s where the Boston Red Sox sit after 65 games in this 2012 season, one that has become a year of redemption for this group of beer-guzzling, chicken-eating misfits. Despite the supposed obvious motivation to prove their critics wrong these Sox have underachieved, resulting in Red Sox Nation starting to turn their backs on this team. Fans are showing up late to games and leaving early, and instead of an electricity inside Fenway Park during games a peace and tranquility has proven a consistent substitute. They are calling into radio stations and bashing their team, an animosity clearly hanging over from the team’s epic collapse last September. And to be honest, despite my loyalty to the team I’m beginning to jump on their bandwagon.
The reality of the Sox situation is that the team has been decimated with injuries, most importantly to leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury. That has certainly contributed to part of the team’s underperforming ways. But what has really flawed this team so far has been the starting pitching, a group whose lowest individual ERA is above 4.00 (Josh Beckett, 4.14). Why the team’s starting pitching hasn’t lived up to its billing is troubling, especially considering the performances of the Sox’ top three starters up to this point. Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz have all had their struggles, and even with Buchholz beginning to come around the team has still found it hard to get some W’s. A 15-day stint on the disabled list for Beckett certainly isn’t going to help that cause moving forward, and while Lester put together a pretty good outing last night against the Cubs he will need to continue to pitch well with his ace counterpart out. If he can’t, and Buchholz loses his touch, the Sox will dig themselves a deeper hole in the basement of the AL East.
At least their offense has picked up the slack. While they’ve been inconsistent recently, the Sox are fourth in the majors in runs scored with 323. That’s pretty good for a team that has seen lineup changes become almost a game-to-game occurrence. The leaders of the offense have been David Ortiz and surprisingly Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is likely headed to his first ever All-Star Game with a .254 average, 12 home runs, and 32 RBIs. Big Papi has belted 15 bombs and will be making yet another All-Star appearance. While the Sox offense has been consistent all season, it has the potential to be that much deadlier once the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury and (hold your laughter) Carl Crawford. I know Crawford’s abysmal season last year has many wary about his return, but if he can come back and give this team any sort of spark offensively his contributions will prove beneficial. The return of Cody Ross should also help this lineup, the outfielder having hit .271 with eight homers and 28 RBIs in the 37 games he has played this season.
Finally, getting Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis back to raking the ball will be huge for this team as well. Right now, each of them look as if their timing has been off since they’ve returned from their respective injuries. It seems that they’re just slightly off, hitting balls on the screws that end up falling right into a fielder’s glove. If they could rediscover their offensive capabilities sooner rather than later, this team could begin to turn itself around. After all, hitting is contagious, and so is fine-tuned, mechanically-sound baseball. Many people are ready to blow this team up, and with good reason, but I feel as if upper management should wait a couple more weeks to see if these guys can turn it around. We’ve heard players say they’re tired of playing like crap, so maybe their realizations will be just what the team needs to get motivated and back to playing winning baseball. Sox fans have claimed this team doesn’t have heart or character, one of the reasons watching them has gotten increasingly difficult over the course of the season. Maybe this recent losing streak has created a spark, and if it has than this team may be in the playoff hunt yet. Only time will tell. Because as they say, “Time is a virtue,” and right now the Sox virtuosity rests with the 97 games remaining in their season.