Sox know turnaround has to start now

Sox know turnaround has to start now
July 18, 2014, 12:45 pm
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BOSTON - The can't-hit, can't-score, good-for-nothing, make-you-fall-asleep-in-your-chair Red Sox are back for the second half of the season.

Oh, goody.

But believe it or not, there's still time for them to change that narrative.

Yes, they're 43-52, good enough -- or bad enough, in this case -- for last place in the A.L. East, 9 1/2 games out of first. They've got their worst winning percentage at the break since the 1997 team went 38-48 in the first half.

But with 67 games left in the season , and 38 against divisional opponent, all it's going to take is for the Sox to get hot out of the break. Suddenly it won't look like the end of the world at Fenway Park.

Of course, that's easier said than done.

There have been signs of life, though. Boston went into the All-Star break strong, winning four of five. That fourth victory was delivered by Clay Buchholz, who went the distance in an 11-0 rout of the Astros.

Jackie Bradley is hitting close to .300 since June 28, too.

Maybe pigs can fly after all.

Perhaps no two players have represented the Sox struggles more than those two this season. Their turnarounds are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's needed to happen for Boston to flip the script.

It's got to start somewhere, right?

"Yeah, we got a lot of baseball left to play," Buchholz said. "Especially in this division, it doesn't really matter what your record is at the end of the year, just as long as you're at the top of the board. It could be 85 wins or 95 wins.

"Just talking to Jonny Gomes about the Oakland team he was on, they were 14 1/2 out with I guess a month left in the season and ended up playing that play-in game against Texas and come out on top on that one." (EDITOR'S NOTE: It wasn't nearly as dramatic as that, but it was still impressive. The 2012 A's bottomed out at 13 games behind on June 30, still trailed by five with nine games to go, but went 8-1 the rest of the way and beat the Rangers in the 162nd and final game of the regular season to clinch the A.L. West.)  "So anything can happen. Baseball is a crazy game. You just got to play each game for that game and not worry about the next week or who you're playing next series. I think that's going to have to be the driving force for this team."

While it is smart to take it one day at a time, it's hard not to look at the upcoming games after the Royals series. Starting next Monday, Boston will play 13 straight against A.L. East opponents. 

"Given where we are right now, yes," manager John Farrell said of divisional games being more important. "That's not to add pressure. That's to say there's some additional significance to the games when you play the teams ahead of you. After we play Kansas City [Friday through Sunday] . . . we have . . . four consecutive series with teams that are ahead of us (in the A.L. East). So [with] 67 games remaining, each one of those has got increasing significance as we go."

General manager Ben Cherington said on Thursday that the Sox are not giving up on this season yet. Yes, players' names will come up in trade rumors and some -- such as Jake Peavy -- may, in fact, be traded. Still, that isn't to say the Sox will be bad enough to punt away the rest of the year. There's reason to believe they'll get better, actually. Shane Victorino is set to return as early as Saturday, which could add some stability to the lineup. The youth added to the lineup in Mookie Betts and Christian Vazquez may also bring a spark. If mainstays Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz can get something going, the team could get hot.

But they'll also have to drown out the noise that comes around this time with the trade deadline approaching.

"Until we know something concrete, our job is to maintain our focus on the field each and every day with the intent of winning tonight," Farrell said. "No one has given up anything, no one has conceded anything. But we also have been in the game long enough to know over the next two weeks names are going to start getting bantered about.

The Red Sox seem to be in good spirits right now, considering everything. There's no doubt the feeling around the clubhouse is a bit more uneasy than it was last season at this time. Still, they believed in themselves last season when nobody else did. And it looks like it's going to take that again.

"That's what this team's been about over the last year-and-a-half or so is confidence," Mike Carp said. "We consider ourselves one of the best teams out there. We go out there and we try to win every day. Unfortunately, the first half didn't work out the way we wanted to, but that isn't to say we can't go out and change things the second half. So we're excited for it. We know it's a long stretch and a lot of baseball left."