McAdam: Red Sox bats have disappeared lately

McAdam: Red Sox bats have disappeared lately
July 25, 2013, 11:00 am
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At a time when the Red Sox are searching almost exclusively for pitching reinforcements - both in the rotation and in the bullpen -- another problem has popped up.
For the last two weeks, the team's offense has sputtered. After going 100 games without having an opposing starter throw a nine-inning complete game against them, it's happened twice to the Red Sox in the span of the last three nights.
On Monday, Matt Moore went the distance in a shutout. On Wednesday night, teammate David Price needed just 97 pitches to beat the Red Sox, allowing a single run over nine innings.
Boston's starter Felix Doubront pitched well, allowing three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. (Doubront had mostly himself to blame for those three runs, as he made an errant pickoff throw and failed to pay attention to two baserunners who successfully pulled off a double steal).
But he got little support from his lineup. The only Red Sox run came in the seventh when Mike Napoli took advantage of one of Price's rare miscues and cranked it into the Monster Seats for his third homer in the last four games.
For the Sox, this was a disturbing pattern re-emerging. In 17 of the last 21 games, Red Sox starters have limited the opposition to three runs or fewer. But in those 17 games, the Sox are just 10-7.
Shorten the sample size and, over the last 11 of the games in which Red Sox starters have allowed three runs or fewer, they're just 5-6.
"From our end," said Shane Victorino, "our starters have done a great job. They've kept us in ballgames. They've given us opportunities. We just haven't been able to (win)."
Teams can't afford to waste quality starts from their rotation. And yet, that's exactly what the Red Sox have been doing for the past few weeks, with Wednesday night being the most recent example...
And a costly loss it was, allowing the Rays to gain no worse than a split in the series while moving back to within a half-game of the Red Sox in the American League standings, with a chance to overtake them for first place with a win tonight.
Consider, too:
* In the last eight games, the Red Sox have scored two runs or fewer in five games.
* In the last nine games, the same team that leads the American League in runs scored has scored more than four runs in a game just twice.
Some of this offensive skid, of course, can be attributed to the strong pitching the Red Sox have run up against.
David Price's complete game Wednesday was third in his last four starts. Moore, his teammate, is one of the game's top lefties.
"Unfortunately," said Victorino, "the last two times we've faced these lefties, we haven't given our pitchers much run support. But that's part of the game."
Last Saturday, the Red Sox were handcuffed by Hiroki Kuroda, who entered the game with third-lowest ERA of any American League starter.
In Oakland, in the final series of the first half, the Red Sox managed just six runs in 29 innings. Perhaps that shouldn't have come as a big surprise, since the A's have the second-lowest ERA of any rotation in the league at 3.78.
"We've run up against some very good pitchers," said John Farrell. "Considering the two lefties in this series, Kuroda in the previous series, we've gotten the best this division offers and they've thrown the ball extremely well. The biggest thing is that they pitched ahead in the count, particularly when those three starters have been on the mound."
The Red Sox lineup is currently filled with slumping players.
Jose Iglesias is 3-for-21 since the All-Star break. Dustin Pedroia is just 2-for-23. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 3-for-18. Stephen Drew is 1-for-12.
It's hard to put together any big innings when almost half of your lineup is hitting well under .200 in the first week of the second half.
More ominously, the Red Sox aren't grinding through at-bats the way they have most of the year. Price needed just over 10 pitches per inning on Wednesday, and Moore was nearly as efficient Monday night.
"Good pitching beats good hitting, right?" Victorino chided to a reporter, reverting to a baseball truism Wednesday night.
But right now, while the Red Sox search to add arms, their own good pitching is going to waste because of poor hitting.