Boston Red Sox are red-faced right now
As recently as the final days of August, the Boston Red Sox boasted the best record in the American League.
Whether the Red Sox held off the rival New York Yankees to win the American League East, it was assumed that the Red Sox would be in the play-offs.
With a week to go in the regular season, that now is far from a certainty.
Following a horrific first three weeks of September, in which the Red Sox lost 16 of 21 games, their lead for the AL wild card, once as large as 11 games, was down to a mere two. At 5-16, Boston is stumbling to the finish line with the second worst September record in the majors.
They lost six times in seven tries against the Tampa Bay Rays in a span of 10 days, setting up a frantic finish for a Boston team expected to cruise to the finish line.
Following the final game of their last home stand, during which they were 3-10, the Red Sox were booed off the field in the regular season Fenway Park finale.
"I've been here, what, nine years? We have never collapsed that bad," David Ortiz said.
"Trust me, we've been through some tough times. It's bad, dog. No matter what we do, things are going to be bad."
Worst of all was the team's starting pitching, which was averaging fewer than five innings per start in September with an earned run average over 6.00. One starter, John Lackey, carries a bloated 10.40 ERA this month, and the Red Sox were casting about for alternatives for the final game of their weekend series with the Yankees.
The poor work by the starters led to a domino effect on the bullpen. Relievers became overworked, and eventually, exposed.
The Red Sox have slumped in the field, too, averaging an error per game in the final month.
And while the offense was generally good, too many times the line-up found itself trying to dig out from early deficits.
With the game's second-highest payroll, the prospect of a second straight season out of the play-offs is unacceptable in Boston.
The very possibility of being bumped from the play-offs has triggered suggestions that the franchise be completely overhauled.
Terry Francona, the manager, finds himself on the hot seat while striving to keep a positive public posture so as not to induce panic in his players.
"We certainly haven't made it very easy for ourselves," said Francona before the second-to-last series of the year.
"That doesn't mean we can't get where we want to go. But, we have our work cut out for us."
Published: September 24, 2011 04:00 AM