Last-place Boston Red Sox are just falling apart

Only one year removed from a World Series title, old age and some injuries has Boston reeling again, writes Paul Oberjuerge.
David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox reacts after popping out with a man on base in the fifth inning during a game with the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on May 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.   Jim Rogash/Getty Images
David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox reacts after popping out with a man on base in the fifth inning during a game with the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on May 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. Jim Rogash/Getty Images

In 2012, after a 15-year stretch of winning teams, including eight play-offs clubs and two World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox imploded. Injuries, miscalculations, a shaky pitching rotation and a disastrous bullpen produced a 69-93 team, Boston’s worst in 47 years.

As Sox fans would say: “It was wicked awful.”

Another championship, last year, made 2012 like an aberration, but the stumbling start to this season may be reawakening feelings of dread.

The Red Sox lost their ninth consecutive game on Saturday, and are accruing defeats at a pace that projects to a season worse than the 69-93 club of 2012. They are 20-28, last in the American League East, and already seven games behind the surprising Toronto Blue Jays.

The veterans are injured, the young guys are not living up to expectations and allowing the lead-off man Jacoby Ellsbury to join the New York Yankees looks more and more like a major miscalculation.

Their rash of injuries may seem like bad luck, but Ben Cherington assembled an old team; five of their preferred starting nine are in their 30s, and David Ortiz is 38.

Shane Victorino, signed to replace Ellsbury, has popped a hamstring and faces his second long stretch out. Mike Napoli has been ill for a week, has leg issues and may be headed for the disabled list. Ortiz has the usual leg issues an overweight man of nearly 40 might be expected to have. They represent three of the first four guys in the batting order.

Jackie Bradley Jr and Xander Bogaerts, thought to be rising stars, are mired in mediocrity. Two other regulars, Jonny Gomes and Will Middlebrooks, are breathing definitions of “journeymen”.

Their home stadium, Fenway Park, is one of the kindest to hitters, but the Red Sox are 19th in scoring and 20th in home runs.

On the pitching side, the Red Sox have allowed more runs than all but eight teams. Felix Doubront is out of the rotation after hurting a finger in a car door, John Lester is sagging again and the bullpen is exhausted and fragile. Andrew Miller, a reliever, has been on the mound for walk-off defeats four times in 11 days.

On Saturday, Miller came off the field a loser in the 15th inning when he threw a ball into centre field on a bunt, the problem being that no one was covering the base.

Can this Red Sox team turn things around? It will not be easy. Not with so many nicked-up players whose injuries may be about age as much as bad luck.

Manager John Farrell, whose first season was so successful, insists it is too early to count out his team.

“There is no ‘give up’ in this group,” he said. “You do the best you can with what you have, where you are. That’s the mode we’re in right now.”

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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