Jonathan Papelbon Revolutionizes Power Rankings
Here is the big-picture reality of the Red Sox: Since the eight-game win streak so many were leaning on to define this team, they have the second-fewest wins in baseball, going 9-15.
And the small-picture reality of the Red Sox? That wasn't hard to uncover Sunday afternoon ...
Where it has left them is at 30-29, five games out of a Wild Card spot. It has also the manager spitting truths about what is what with this current group.
The result of the Red Sox' most recent loss to the Rays - who have now beaten the Sox in five of the teams' six meeting this season - was also players coming to the defense of their manager.
“The way I think and in my mind, how is it on him?” Alex Verdugo said. “You’re not out there playing where I am. You’re not out there on the field doing the defense. You’re not in the box hitting. Like yeah, it’s on him to make the right calls and to put the right people that he feels necessary at that point. … But at the end of the day, we are the players. We are the ones that have to go out there and make the play and get it done."
The problem is that all the promise that seemed to reside around the corner even in the darkest of times during the last few weeks has simply run the other way.
The starters - who were supposedly on the verge of locking in on a high-end rotation - have managed the third-fewest innings since the eight-game win streak, just 1/3 inning more than the A's and 5 1/3 innings better than Kansas City.
That, of course, will always lead to the exposure of any bullpen, which is just 5-for-10 in save opportunities over the 24 games.
And then there is the defense. As was evidenced by the season's lowlight Sunday, the 16 errors after the win streak (fifth-most in the majors) doesn't tell the whole story. The combination of Enmanuel Valdez and Kiké Hernandez at second base and shortstop has been more of a problem than a solution, with other issues (Masa Yoshida's shakiness in left field and Jarren Duran's sudden unevenness in center) occasionally popping up.
Adam Duvall should help, with the likes of Christian Arroyo and Yu Chang also potentially. And then there is Trevor Story? Sure. But waiting on the shortstop's emergence - that should allow for some effective reshuffling - seems like something that nobody should be hanging their hat on during these struggles.
The good-time feels that were being supplied by the likes of Duran (who is hitting .195 with a .529 OPS while striking out in 31 of his 81 at-bats since the eight-gamer), and Valdez (.192/.614) have been smacked down by the reality that oftentimes comes with the unknown.
And even the one sense of certainty the Red Sox thought they possessed, Rafael Devers, looks like a different player than the organization had leaned on. Since May 7, Devers is hitting just .217 with two homers and a .636 OPS. For the season, Devers' batting average (.206) and OPS (.688) from the seventh inning and on seems like foreign compared to years' past.
Can it be fixed? Maybe. But the problem is that if reaching the postseason remains the be-all, end-all, chasing down the teams already in those Wild Card spots - the Orioles, Astros and Yankees - seem like a daunting task considering their construction and trade deadline intentions.
Even the Blue Jays - perceived by some as talented a group there is in the American League - is starting to get hot, sitting 2 1/2 games out of the Wild Card while having won four straight.
Maybe Sunday was a jumping off point. Perhaps it was a wake-up call. Whatever the case, something needs to change, and their manager is one of many who know it.