For Red Sox, excuses piling up alongside losses

For Red Sox, excuses piling up alongside losses
June 10, 2014, 10:45 am
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BALTIMORE -- In the wake of another dispiriting loss Monday night, the Red Sox didn't have many hits or runs to talk about. There were three of the former and none of the latter in a 4-0 shutout loss to the Baltimore Orioles, the sixth loss in seven tries. Or 16th in the last 24 games, if you're reaching back across two losing streaks.
     
But rationalizations and excuses? Those weren't in such short supply.
     
Some had merit. Some, frankly, were reaches.
     
We heard how they hit the ball hard. We heard that Bud Norris was too much too overcome.
     
We heard that they got into Baltimore after 4 am following their Sunday night game in Detroit.
     
Let's take these arguments one-by-one, shall we?
     

* Several players noted that the Sox made some loud outs. But that seems overstated.
     
In the fifth inning, David Ortiz did indeed hit a screaming low liner that second baseman Ryan Flaherty, situated in shallow right as part of the O's shift, made a nice diving play on.
     
In the seventh, Mike Napoli, in his second game back from a DL stint, carried the ball to the wall in straightaway center, before David Lough hauled it in for a long out.
     
And in the sixth, Dustin Pedroia hit a hard grounder that nearly ate up J.J. Hardy before the Orioles shortstop glove it and forced Jonathan Herrera at second for the final out of the inning.
     
Other than that? The Red Sox struck out six times, hit into eight groundball outs and a handful of rather routine flyouts. To say that they were unlucky is giving themselves too much credit.
     
The Sox didn't generate much offense or create many chances for themselves. They sent the mininum number of hitters to the plate in each of the first four innings. They didn't put a runner in scoring position until the fifth inning. Only once, in the sixth, did they claim multiple baserunners in the same inning.
     

* "We ran into a good pitcher,'' maintained John Farrell of Baltimore starter Bud Norris.
     
That might be a bit much. Norris came into the game with a 4-5 mark and a 4.51 ERA. He doesn't overpower hitters (averaging just 6.01 strikeouts per nine innings).
     
His WHIP this season is an impressive 1.168, but for his career, it's a pedestrian 1.399. And his ERA-plus, which seeks to measure a pitcher's true effectiveness, usually hovers around 100, suggesting that rather than being any sort of elite pitcher, Norris is about as average as a pitcher can be.
     
But listening to Red Sox hitters Monday night, you might think they had just been silenced by the Jim Palmer.
     
It's one thing to be beaten by Max Scherzer or limited by Anibal Sanchez, as the Sox were over the weekend in Detroit. But Norris is, at best, a serviceable mid-rotation starter.
     
He doesn't dominate or overpower hitters. He relies on changing speeds, keeping hitters off balance and keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate.
     
On Monday, he did a nice job of regularly getting ahead of Red Sox hitters and deserved the win.
     
But please, let's not suggest that Bud Norris is any sort of "ace'' material. He isn't -- by a long shot.

     
* The Red Sox did, indeed, land in the Baltimore area after 3:30 AM Monday and weren't in their downtown hotel until well after 4 A.M.
     
That's a quick turnaround after playing on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball telecast, but it's hardly unprecedented.
     
It happens to teams all the time. Teams routinely arrive late at night or early in the morning before the start of a homestand or road series.
     
The good ones play through their travel challenges; the mediocre and bad ones let everyone know about them.
    
How many times did the Red Sox complain about travel or late arrivals or early mornings a season ago? Not often. They were too busy leading the division most of the way.
     
Didn't this kind of whining go out of style when Adrian Gonzalez got shipped out in August of 2012?

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