Red Sox … WTF?

Thanks for the title, Dad! Anyway, so I just watched the Red Sox blow another game. Like the last one I watched (Saturday night vs. Detroit), the Red Sox were winning going into the late innings of the game. And once again, the Red Sox blew it. This time the blame lay with Jonathan Papelbon, who in one inning hit a batter and gave up three hits, including two two-run home runs. It was a frustrating night that could’ve been a huge pick-me-up for a team that’s struggled all season to win games. It was even a chance to gain a game on third-place Toronto (not to mention the Yankees) in an effort to get back into the hunt for the division. Instead, it was just another loss, setting a Red Sox team back a little further.

What’s so odd about this team is that it has defied all expectations, positive and negative, that were in place before the season:

1) The Red Sox were expected to struggle to score runs. Well, that really hasn’t been the problem this season. The Sox were third in the majors coming into this game in terms of team runs scored, and the nine they put up tonight can only move them up the ranks (on an interesting side note, the top four teams for that statistic are all AL East teams).

2) The Red Sox were expected to have one of the best starting rotations in baseball. This has not been the case either. Daisuke and Beckett have both struggled throughout the season. Buchholz is still a work in progress. And while Lackey and Lester were both pitching well, neither looked like aces when they faced off against the Tigers over the weekend.

3) The Red Sox were expected to win games through a strong defense that prevented runs from being scored. Well, as of right now the defense is merely fifth in the American League. What’s worse, there’s no flash to this defense. Scutaro makes the routine plays at shortstop, but he doesn’t have great range and I still get worried with his throwing style that he’s going to throw the ball away every time he sets up to throw. Meanwhile, Beltre has shown nothing of the gold glove-winning defense that we thought we’d get from him when we signed him. And tonight I watched our backup outfield fail to make every play they could possibly they make. They took bad routes, missed catchable balls, and even overran a few grounders. I can’t wait for our starters to return.

So there you have it. The Red Sox continue to struggle with consistency and they don’t do anything that they should on paper, good or bad. This may be why it’s so maddening to watch them night in and night out. And the bullpen is perhaps the biggest problem of all. There may not be a single reliable reliever in the entire Red Sox bullpen. Okajima is nothing like what he was when he was an All-Star back in 2007. Bard throws hard, but he’s also given up some key home runs in late-game situations. Papelbon had pitched well up until this loss, but the way he pitched this inning raises issues about his durability, considering he had the night off last night (although he DID have to throw multiple innings on Saturday). The rest of the bullpen is composed of inconsistent nobodies. With the starters struggling, the bullpen has to step it up. Wakefield provided some stability for the Sox tonight and at least saved the bullpen from getting overused. But overall the pitching for this season has been horrendous. The Sox currently sit in 26th place with a collective ERA of 4.83. So again I say… wtf?

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