It wasn’t the worst case scenario for the Boston Red Sox, but everyone involved in the Red Sox from the fans to the front office to the players were probably expecting a better outcome for this series.
When Jonathan Papelbon struck out Mark Teixeira on Monday to secure the 2-1 win for the Boston Red Sox, the standings looked very similar to where they were when the series started on Friday. By getting a split with the New York Yankees, the Red Sox still remain 6 games back of the division leaders with only one more series against their heated rivals to go. A lot of people were hoping for at least a 3-1 series win to gain a game on the Yankees, but it was not to be. Unless the Yankees start a serious slump just as the Red Sox get on a roll, it will be difficult for the Red Sox to come back and win the division in reverse 1978 fashion here.
Two things stood out about this series:
1. The Red Sox offense had multiple opportunities with their foot on the Yankees throat and failed to get more than two runs in any of those innings. In the past, the Red Sox took these opportunities and made opposing teams pay, giving their pitchers 5 run cushions to work with and really putting the pressure on the opposing offense. As Red Sox fans, we can blame this as much as we want on losing Kevin Youkilis, the most consistent bat, and still not having Dustin Pedroia, but one of the major issues was tinkering with the lineup with the return of Jacoby Ellsbury. Jacoby batted lead-off for the first three games of the series and was essentially a guaranteed out for the New York Yankees. Then, Francona dropping Marco Scutaro down to the two spot really made him uncomfortable as he struggled in this series going 2-17. I understand that Ellsbury was the lead-off man before he got hurt, but he has not been in the line-up for two months. It’s not a simple plug and play with Ellsbury. Batting him 9th, like what Francona did today, is the right move until he starts working counts and getting on base again.
The Red Sox inability to capitalize on golden opportunities was one of the reasons they failed to score more than 2 runs in a game after their 6 run fire-storm on Friday night, and even that game should have been in the double digits.
2. As much as we want to say that Lackey and Beckett were bad on Saturday and Sunday, the biggest issue they both faced is that they gave up the one bad inning. In fact, Lackey was not really that bad. The offense just never gave him support and the Yankees just capitalized on the one inning (5th) where he left a couple of hittable balls. Beckett, on the other hand, had zero run support until the 5th inning, and then got hit in the 5th inning for 5 runs. Up until then, he was pitching a fairly good game. The Sox either have to avoid having those type of innings, or just work to control the damage.
While the run at the division title is probably over, there is still some silver lining and Red Sox fans can still have some faith that a playoff trip is possible. While the Red Sox were battling it out in the Bronx, the Tampa Bay Rays, the leaders in the wild-card were busy getting swept by the Jays, have lost their last 5, and lost two of their top pitchers (Nienman and Davis) for an undisclosed amount of time. With a series upcoming next weekend, now would be a perfect time to gain some ground on the Rays and make a push for the wild-card.
It’s going to be a race to the finish between the Red Sox and the Rays. Hold on to your baseball caps and get ready for a month and a half of exciting baseball.