McAdam: Monday's win doesn't hide Sox warts

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McAdam: Monday's win doesn't hide Sox warts

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
The recent freefall by the Red Sox has, understandably, consumed fans for the last few weeks.

What was once a safe and secure lead for the American League wild card spot is now very much in play and the team's poor performance over the weekend against Tampa Bay only inflamed tensions.

The team's doubleheader split with Baltimore took a day off the calendar, kept the lead at two games and knocked a game off the Magic Number -- it now stands at eight.

The Sox are in clear survival mode. They don't care how they win or how they get there. The object is to hold off the Rays and win one more game than their closest pursuers.

Style points aren't of much consequence now. Moreover, the Red Sox can convince themselves that shouldonce they reach the playoffs, they can hit the re-set button and start fresh.

But the Monday night win, needed as it might have been, obscured two salient facts as the Red Sox stumble toward the finish line.

1) The Sox have won three games on their current homestand and two of those have taken place when they've scored 18 runs.

Again, a team desperate for wins isn't about to refuse any because they don't fit the mold. This isn't about aesthetics; it's survival, pure and simple.

But it should be more than a little troubling that the Sox are being forced to out-hit their pitchers' mistakes.

John Lackey spotted the Orioles a 3-0 lead Monday night and even after the Red Sox rallied to provide him with nine runs in the first three innings, Lackey couldn't pitch long enough (five full innings) to qualify for the win.

Should the Red Sox reach the post-season, they won't have the luxury of facing Brian Matusz, who's allowed at least five or more runs in seven straight starts.

Instead, they'll be matched against one of the three best teams in the American League, against starters with ERAs which begin with the number three or four, rather than, say, 10, as is the case with Matusz.

For the Sox, it was nice to see Jed Lowrie contribute a three-run homer and for Conor Jackson to get some playing time and chip in with a late-inning grand slam.

But if the Red Sox think they can win in October the way they've won twice in the last week, they're fooling themselves.

Which leads, indirectly, to another ongong issue...

2) The Sox still have no one capable of taking the ball for a Game 3 start in the Division Series.

Despite the Red Sox' win, Lackey's ERA actually increased to an unsightly 6.49.

He fooled nobody in the Baltimore lineup and allowed 13 baserunners in just 4 13 innings. After, in his post-game press conference, Lackey seemed nearly as lost as he did on that night in May in Toronto when he confessed: "Basically, everything in my life sucks right now.''

Lackey looked just as long on the podium as he did on the mound -- without the requisite eye-rolling and hand-raising that accompanies him in games. He confessed to be without answers for his poor performance, though, in true Lackey form, he managed to indignantly point out that he had pitched "pretty well'' in his previous start and that, at least once during the debacle against the Orioles, he had been the victim of a ball "dropping in.''

He still has the worst ERA of any qualifying starter in the American League. He still has a bloated WHIP of .163. And he still has a batting average allowed of .310.

Perhaps help will come Tuesday night in the form of Erik Bedard, who hasn't pitched in 13 days and who, because of the layoff, will be somewhat restricted in terms of pitches thrown.

Before he was sidelined by knee and lat issues, Bedard was at least keeping his team in games, a minimum requirement for a post-season starter, so perhaps Bedard could still claim that No. 3 spot with a good showing Tuesday followed by another on the team's final road trip.

The uncertainty that surround the rotation, however, is a reminder that the team's problems are far from solved and that things have to improve -- and fast -- for their post-season qualification to mean anything.

Just because the math is slightly better this Tuesday morning that it was 24 hours earlier doesn't mean the Red Sox' problems have gone away.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Porcello loses 10th game as Red Sox fall to Twins, 4-1

Porcello loses 10th game as Red Sox fall to Twins, 4-1

BOSTON -- Twins rookie lefty Adalberto Mejia is feeling more comfortable each time he takes the mound.

Mejia pitched 5 2/3 innings in his second straight scoreless start, Max Kepler hit a two-run homer and Minnesota rebounded from two consecutive losses against Boston to beat the Red Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

"He did a nice job," Twins manager Paul Molitor said about Mejia. "He had to kind of battle. It's kind of becoming a little bit of his MO to burn through pitches, but similarly to his last start, he kept walking off the field with zeros."

Kepler also had an RBI single, and Miguel Sano added an RBI double to help the Twins improve to 24-11 on the road.

Mejia (3-3) allowed five hits, struck out three and walked one in his 11th career start. On Friday night at Cleveland, he held the Indians to two hits over five innings in a victory.

"I feel calmer every time I'm out there," he said through a translator. "I think that's why I did better."

Brandon Kintzler got the final three outs for his 21st save.

Boston starter Rick Porcello (4-10) gave up four runs on six hits in six innings, striking out six and walking two. It was his 14th straight start going at least six innings, the AL's longest active streak.

"It's not like they're beating the cover off the ball," Porcello said. "It's just a couple things here and there that I've got to clean up. I'm not making excuses for myself. I definitely hold myself accountable for the loss tonight."

Red Sox manager John Farrell was back in the dugout after serving a one-game suspension Tuesday for poking umpire Bill Miller in the chest during an argument Saturday.

The Red Sox stranded 11 baserunners, and at least one in every inning. Farrell thought his team may have been pressing a bit.

"I thought there were times we might have expanded the strike zone a little bit, trying to make something happen," he said.

With Minnesota leading 2-0 in the sixth, Kepler lined his homer off the back of Boston's bullpen.

In the first, the Twins scored a pair of two-out runs when Sano hit his RBI double down the third-base line and scored on Kepler's broken-bat single.

Xander Bogaerts drove in Boston's run with a bases-loaded grounder in the seventh.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: LHP Glen Perkins resumed throwing Tuesday after a setback last week following offseason shoulder surgery. Molitor said the club is still formulating a plan for him. He's been sidelined all season and pitched in just two games last year.

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez missed his third straight game after getting hit by a pitch on the left knee Sunday. "He'll go through a full workday today," Farrell said. "He's feeling improved."

MATCHES OWN RECORD

Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia played his 98th consecutive error-less game, matching the best mark in club history he set for a second baseman from 2009-10.

LOOKS FAMILIAR

This season has started like 2015 for Porcello, the AL's reigning Cy Young Award winner.

Two years ago when he struggled badly, the righty lost nine of his initial 13 decisions and finished 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA.

ROSTER MOVE

Minnesota right-hander Phil Hughes was activated from the 10-day disabled list and LHP Craig Breslow was put on with rib cage soreness.

Hughes had been on the DL since complaining of a "dead feeling" in his pitching shoulder on May 21. He allowed one run in three innings during three rehabilitation appearances in Triple-A.

Molitor plans to use him out of the bullpen.

UP NEXT

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (4-5, 6.23 ERA) looks to continue his success in Fenway Park in the series finale Thursday. He's allowed only one run over 15 innings in two career starts.

Red Sox: LHP David Price (2-2, 4.76) has won his last five decisions against Minnesota, posting a 1.84 ERA.