By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Say this for the 2011 Red Sox: they sure can pick a bad time to have a losing streak.
They endured their first right out of the starting gate, losing the first six games of the season, eventually dropping 10 of their first 12.
As such, they had their professional obituaries written. Entire research departments were assigned to complete this sentence as many different ways as possible: "No team which began the year 2-10 has ever . . ."
The Sox insisted that they would be fine, and, indeed they were. They also insisted that had their losing streak come in mid-season, it would have gone virtually unnoticed. But it didn't, so it wasn't.
Now, a week into September, it's happening again. At the precise time when playoff matchups are just now coming into focus, the Sox are skidding again.
They lost three of four to Toronto this week, dropping games in every conceivable fashion. They lost when they didn't hit (1-0 Monday); they lost when their bullpen sprung several leaks (11-10 Wednesday); and they lost when they failed to pitch or hit (7-4 Thursday).
That made it three series losses in a row for the first time since the final 10 days of June. (Then, no one much cared or noticed, as the Sox themselves had presciently forecast back in April.)
Now, people are paying attention. And some of the low-grade panic setting in is not without merit.
Stumbling to the finish line is not the preferred method of preparation for the playoffs and with the post-season set to begin three weeks from Friday night, some issues need addressing.
Despite weeks worth of auditioning, they've yet to find a trustworthy option for the seventh inning. Perhaps Alfredo Aceves is the logical solution since Bobby Jenks is most assuredly not. Nor, for that matter, is the second-half version of Matt Albers.
The starting rotation may be in shambles, what with the temporary unavailability of Josh Beckett and Erik Bedard. Until they return to health, the likes of Andrew Miller, Tim Wakefield and John Lackey need to do a better job keeping their teammates in games.
Finally, there's the inconsistent lineup, which has the unnerving habit of being shutout one game (Monday) and scoring 14 runs the very next (Tuesday). It would help if Dustin Pedroia (one hit in four games in Toronto) and Kevin Youkilis (no RBI since coming off the DL a week ago) reverted to form.
The team is still pointed toward the post-season but their position isn't exactly unassailable; the Tampa Bay Rays are six games back in the loss column heading into Friday's game, the first of seven between the clubs in the next 10 days.
Now would be a good time to start playing better. Even a team whose timing has been bad since the start should realize that.