Hovering around .500

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Hovering around .500

On May 29, the Red Sox beat the Tigers 6-3 at Fenway. In the process, they improved their record to 25-24 and climbed over .500 for the first time all season.

This the .500 mark isnt something we typically celebrate around here, and this year was no exception. But while the champagne (of beers) wasnt popping, there was an undeniable sense of relief: "OK, they did it. Theyre going to be all right." Even if .500 isnt the mark of a champion (well, it depends on who you ask), its the sign of a team thats headed in the right direction, that has some fight left in their seven-figure bones, that might even stick around long enough to make run later this summer. Or so we thought. Why not? Its not like the Orioles and Blue Jays are ready to win the division. The Yankees are old and without their anchor. The Rays have the arms but lack the serious bats. In a perfect world, with everyone healthy and every aspect of the team playing up to its potential, no ones better than the Sox. AL East champs: Why not them?

That faith was rewarded, as the Sox won three of their next four games against the Tigers and Blue Jays and moved to 28-25, within only two games of first place. At that point, we just assumed the depths of sub.-500 ball were a thing of the past. Like last year, just something they needed to get out of their system before realizing their potential (but hopefully not falling off a cliff down the stretch).

That was 10 days ago.

It might as well be 10 years.

The Sox have now lost seven of their last eight and are back below .500, back in last place, six and a half games behind the division-leading Rays and Yankees. But while the struggles are all too familiar, the source is unexpected its the bats.

Scoring was the one thing we never worried about with these guys. For most of the season, even without Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and, basically, Adrian Gonzalez in the mix, the Sox were and still are the second-highest scoring team in baseball. And even if that stat is slightly misleading (they have a knack for blowouts, so a lot of their runs are scored in games that are already decided), theres never been a question of the true strength of this Sox team: The bats. The bats!

Lately, not so much. The Sox have only scored 10 total runs on this current four game losing streak. Over the course of this recent 1-7 stretch, theyve been held to only one run on three occasions and scored more than five runs only twice. Meanwhile, the pitchers have been far from dominant but have certainly performed well enough to win. Some wonder if its time for the starters to put on their Papi hats and call a team meeting (Note to reporters: If theyre anything like Papi, DO NOT bring up this meeting), but Im not sure what that will do. Call me crazy, but I dont think the line-up, as futile as its been, deserves anything near the treatment that the staff received earlier in the year.

Back then, the starting rotation was at full strength and getting knocked around by Oakland, Baltimore, Kansas City and Cleveland this after sucking it up in September and forming the nucleus of the collapse. Meanwhile, this lineup has been in shambles since day one and has been more resilient than we could have ever imagined. Whether it was losing Ellsbury, Crawford and every other outfielder, or Youks injury, Pedroias injury and Adrian Gonzalezs struggles, the offense has had plenty of chances to go belly up, but theyve kept on fighting. They havent always won, but theyve stayed afloat. And yeah, theyve been pretty awful as of late, but they were also up against the hottest pitching staff in baseball, and then Josh Johnson, a very good pitcher whos only a year and change removed from the NL ERA crown.

Good pitching beats good hitting, and lately the Sox have been up against some pretty damn good pitching. We're really going to over react? Aren't they entitled to a slump? Considering the competition and the mounting injuries, shouldn't we have almost expected the slump?

Eh, with the money the Sox are paying these guys even in the face of all these injuries you never expect a slump, but all I'm saying is at the very least we should tolerate it, and save our judgment for once Ellsbury and Crawford are back, and Gonzalez presumably (he HAS to, right?) snaps out of this ridiculous funk. And hope that when it happens, the pitching is still holding strong, still keeping up their end of the bargain. Because we all know the potential that lies within that Sox clubhouse. That as horrendous as they've been as a whole this season, they're still only six and a half games back, and they're up against teams with plenty of problems of their own. First place? Why not them?

But first, let's get back to .500.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Eduardo Rodriguez strong, Red Sox down Mariners for 5th straight win

Eduardo Rodriguez strong, Red Sox down Mariners for 5th straight win

BOSTON (AP)  Eduardo Rodriguez pitched six scoreless innings and the Boston Red Sox took advantage of a sloppy performance by the Seattle Mariners to earn their season-high fifth straight win, 3-0 on Friday night.

It was the third consecutive win for Rodriguez (4-1), who went six innings, gave up just five hits and struck out four while throwing a season-high 112 pitches. Craig Kimbrel earned his 13th save.

Rodriguez has pitched at least six innings in his last seven starts, going 4-0 in that span.

The only run support Rodriguez needed came in the second inning, when Hanley Ramirez scored on Josh Rutledge's RBI groundout. Boston added two more runs in the sixth, scoring on a wild pitch and passed ball.

Yovani Gallardo (2-5) took the loss. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, gave up seven hits and was responsible for all three of Boston's runs. Seattle has won just one of its last seven.

Meanwhile, Boston gave Rodriguez got lots of help from his defense. Jackie Bradley Jr. had a pair of nice plays, getting an outfield assist in the second and running down another ball on the warning track in the sixth.

In addition to the pitching miscues, the Mariners had all kinds of issues in the wet conditions, committing two fielding errors.

The Red Sox left 11 runners on base, leaving the door open for the Mariners to get back in the game. But Seattle couldn't capitalize, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. The Mariners also left seven runners stranded.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: LHP James Paxton (strained left forearm) was slated to make a rehab start Friday night in Double-A Arkansas. He has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 5. He could be activated for a start at the end of the month against Colorado.

Red Sox: Infielder Marco Hernandez will be out the remainder of the season after undergoing stabilization surgery on his left shoulder on Friday. Hernandez was placed on the disabled list May 4 with a left shoulder misalignment. The 24-year-old hit .276 with two RBI in 21 games. ... A night after he left the game with left knee pain, 2B Dustin Pedroia was held out Friday for what manager John Farrell said was "precautionary reasons" because of the wet playing surface.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Rob Whalen (0-2, 4.09 ERA in Triple-A Tacoma) will be making his major league start since last season with Atlanta. He will be 12th different starting pitcher the Mariners have used this season.

Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson (1-0, 7.20 ERA) will be making his second major league start this year and third of his career.

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More AP baseball:https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP