Red Sox offense continues to struggle


Red Sox offense continues to struggle

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are adamant that their struggling offense has nothing to do with the venue they're playing at. They also insist that the at-bats are solid.

Right now, in their eyes at least -- and even after their fourth-straight loss on Saturday -- the Red Sox bats just aren't getting the bounces.

"Baltimore's got a lot of balls that fell in here. We got a lot of balls that they dove and caught, a line drive that the pitcher catches," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after Saturday's 8-2 loss at Fenway Park. "It'll all catch up with us here. Our balls will fall, and we're going to win a lot of games at home.

"I see a lot of really good at-bats," said Valentine. "When you hit the ball hard and they catch it, you can't aim it. And then, if you're fouling off eight and nine pitches, and then you hit a line drive and they dive and they catch it, you can't think that's a bad at-bat. We've had a lot of them. Probably as many as the other team. We're just not getting results."

In their current four-game losing skid, the Red Sox have not hit a single home run. It's the first time that Boston has gone homeless in four consecutive games at Fenway Park since May of 2007. And it's the first time the Red Sox have lost four consecutive games at home without homering, since 1986.

If this Red Sox team wants to do what those two teams did -- get to the World Series -- then this offensive slump will certainly have to be improved upon with the Sox being outscored 23-11 in the last four games.

So how does that happen?

First off, the thin roster doesn't help. With Jacoby Elssbury and Kevin Youkilis injured, there was hope that up-and-comer Will Middlebrooks could step in and be an immediate impact. So much so, that he was bumped up to second in the Red Sox batting order in just his second Major League game on Friday night.

But the injury bug has even put a halt to that, at least for one day it did.

Middlebrooks was a late scratch to Boston's lineup for Saturday's afternoon game against the Orioles. With lefty Ryan Sweeney back in the lineup, Middlebrooks was originally slated to hit eighth and start at third base. But because of leg cramps, Middlebrooks was replaced with Nick Punto.

"He was just up all night with cramps in his legs," said Valentine, while calling Middlebrooks day-to-day. "And again, in this short roster, that's a tough proposition, I thought. When I talked to him, I asked if it had ever happened before, and he said, 'Not really.' I couldn't chance him going out and pulling a muscle."

Once that change was made, Valentine also felt the need to change his lineup around, moving Sweeney from the leadoff spot to sixth in the order, and putting Punto in the leadoff spot.

"I just wanted to do that," said Valentine. "I thought maybe he could spark us at the top of the lineup."

None of that helped the Red Sox score more than two runs on Saturday, and they finished the game 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position while leaving six runners on base.

Valentine's assertion is that those at-bats with runners in scoring position are good. And Red Sox players agree.

"When you've got guys on second and third and you get robbed and a guy makes a diving play, where it could have went the other way and had two runs with a guy on first instead of getting that third out," said Sweeney. "It's frustrating right now, but it just seems like sometimes when things are going like that, that's what happens."

Another belief in the Red Sox clubhouse is that it's still early, and too early to panic about an offense that most feel will break out soon. Adrian Gonzalez, who finished Saturday's loss with his second straight three-hit game, shared that belief afterwards, saying things like:

"We've still got time."

"The good thing is, it's still May 5."

"These kinds of things don't happen in one day."

"There's still a lot of season to be played."

All of that is true, of course. But it's also about execution.

"I just feel like, right now, when we do get pitches that are mistakes, we're just not doing anything with them," said Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "We faced a good pitcher today, and we've been facing a lot of pitchers that have been throwing the ball well. We've just got to take advantage of the mistakes and then keep it rolling."

And the Red Sox hope that at some point soon, those solid at-bats and hard-hit balls that aren't falling right now, will start turning into runs.

NLCS: Cubs beat Dodgers 8-4, head home with 3-2 series lead


NLCS: Cubs beat Dodgers 8-4, head home with 3-2 series lead

LOS ANGELES - Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings, Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Chicago Cubs moved one win from their first World Series trip in 71 years by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday.

The Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series and will have two chances to wrap up that elusive pennant back home at Wrigley Field.

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