McAdam: Sox slump from both sides of the coin

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McAdam: Sox slump from both sides of the coin

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
A's recently as 10 days ago, the biggest question surrounding the Red Sox revolved around who should start Game 3 of the Division Series.

Now, in the aftermath of their disastrous 1-6 road trip, the focus has shifted: Will the Red Sox reach the Division Series?

In the last week, they've morphed from playoff locks to post-season suspects, their Wild Card lead trimmed to just three games in the loss column.

"Now we've put the pressure on them," said Tampa starter James Shields Sunday after limiting the Sox to a single run over 8 13 innings. "Now they have to win games. That's it. They could have swept us here and cruised on to the end and now they're not."

So, can the Red Sox hold on? Two opposing views:

YES, THEY CAN
1) True, the Sox have put themselves in this predicament. But it's the result of a bad 10 days, not a longer statistical sample.

Losing streaks are inevitable over a 162-game season. No one knows this better than the Sox, who stumbled out of the gate at 2-10 only to right themselves and play .700 ball for the next two months.

There's plenty of time left for the Red Sox to pull out of their nosedive, get healthy and get their pitching lined up for the playoffs.

2) The schedule is in their favor. Of the 16 games remaining, almost half (seven) are against Baltimore, owners of the worst record in the American League.

Beating the Orioles five times in seven tries -- surely not much of a feat -- would get the Sox to 90 wins and force the Rays to go 10-7 in their final 17 games to finish ahead -- and that's assuming the Sox lose every other game remaining.

Remember, too, that the Rays have 11 games remaining with both the Sox (four) and Yankees (seven). That's a tall order for a pitching staff and a team looking to play catch-up.

3) Reinforcements are on the way.

Having been stung by injuries the last month, the Sox are getting healthier.

Kevin Youkilis could return to the lineup Tuesday night. Josh Beckett could start as soon as Thursday, just in time for the first game of the four-game set with the Rays. Erik Bedard could pitch by the weekend.

When a team gets its cleanup hitter and 40 percent of its rotation back, that has to be a positive.

NO, THEY CAN'T
1) The biggest issue during the recent losing streak has been starting pitching. Only twice in the last 11 games have the Red Sox had a starting pitcher go longer than five innings. Not coincidentally, they are 2-9 in those 11 games.

And even with Monday's off-day, the next two scheduled starters for the Sox are Tim Wakefield, who hasn't won since the last week of July, and John Lackey, who has the worst ERA of any qualifying starter in either league.

2) Momentum is a hard thing to break late in the season.

The Sox haven't played well for nearly two weeks. There's been sloppy play -- Carl Crawford threw to the wrong base twice over the weekend -- and a general lethargy to their play.

While the bullpen has given away games late -- blowing a two-run lead with six outs to go last Wednesday; allowing a walk-off win in extra innings Saturday night -- the lineup hasn't been able to overcome early deficits.

3) This isn't an isolated slump -- almost everybody has been impacted.

In addition to the poor work by the starters, the offense has sputtered. In their six losses, the Red Sox scored 22 runs, or an average of about 3.7 per game. Take away an 11-10 slugfest loss to Toronto, however, and the average dips to just over two runs scored per loss.

Toss on some bullpen issues -- the continuing search for a trustworthy option for the seventh inning; two straight losses from Daniel Bard -- and the problems are many and unlikely to all be rectified at once.

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

The price of being the ace

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The price of being the ace

David Price has a chance for his first “ace” moment to show Boston he’s truly the pitcher they paid for.

The bullpen is spent after giving up the game late Saturday, to go with the team dealing with a three game skid -- the longest since their three-game losing streak from April 17th – April 19th.

On top of the Sox not having lost four-straight yet in 2016, Price is back at the Rogers Centre for the first time since his playoff run with the Blue Jays last year.

So this game should have a playoff feel to it -- as much as one can in late May -- especially with the Toronto picking up steam.

And lastly for Price, he’s started to figure things out since making a mechanical adjustment following his atrocious 4.2 inning start against the Yankees earlier in the month.

But he hasn’t had to throw against a top of the line offense yet.

The lefty dominated Houston, much like everyone has this year and also did well against Colorado.

In between those two he did face a strong opponent in Kansas City, but the Royals still haven’t completely gotten things together (although they did mount a ridiculous comeback Saturday against the White Sox).

Toronto’s scored over seven runs in three of their last four, winning all four of those games and seven of the last 10 contests -- putting them four games behind Boston in the AL East standings.

Price does have a few things going for him entering Sunday’s contest.

He threw well against his old team earlier this year -- seven innings, two earned runs, nine strikeouts and zero walks -- when his mechanics weren’t where he wanted them.

Also after being traded to Detroit from Tampa Bay in 2014, Price was dominant in his returning start at Tropicana Field.

Although he took the loss 1-0, the lefty dealt, chucking a one-hitter over eight innings, striking out nine without walking a batter -- and the one run off of him was unearned.

Price has yet to pitch at Comerica Park since leaving the Tigers, so that’s something Boston may deal with later in the year, too.

Now Price has to block all of this from his mind and execute pitches, in what is his biggest test this point in the season.

A lot for him to ignore in what could’ve easily been a regular start had Boston’s bullpen done its job Sunday -- but then again, this is a part of the price of being an ace.

McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

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McAdam: Red Sox relievers didn’t do the job vs. Toronto

Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss the Red Sox bullpen giving up a 4-run lead in the late innings of their loss to the Blue Jays.

Watch the video above.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 10-9 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays…

1) Toronto’s offense can never be taken lightly.

Coming into the series, the Blue Jays had scored 197 runs, putting them in the middle of the pack among all Major League teams and averaging four runs per game. In the two games against Boston, they’ve scored 17 runs.

So an offense that had appeared to be dormant has been woken up thanks to some subpar Red Sox pitching.

It seems like these two teams are very similar and could be in opposite positions just as easily. The Blue Jays are only three behind in the win column (five in the loss), so Boston needs to win David Price’s Sunday start to widen the gap and cut their three-game skid.

2) Craig Kimbrel is only effective for so long.

Boston’s closer wasn’t giving excuses following Saturday’s game -- and this isn’t one either.

Saturday’s 39-pitch performance wasn’t just his season-high, but his career high in pitches.

This not only resulted in a drop in Kimbrel’s velocity, but it exposed flaws in the Red Sox’ pen. Kimbrel is truly a one-inning guy, so if Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara can’t get him the ball, he’s useless.

And it seems like Uehara won’t be used on back-to-back days frequently in the near future, so Boston won’t be able to use Tazawa in a seventh inning role with much consistency.

Somewhere along the way Dave Dombrowski will need to find another reliever for the back-end of the bullpen.

3) Offense can only take a team so far.

Both teams had big offensive days, in large part because pitchers from both sides made a lot of mistakes -- but they still took advantage of them.

Had the Red Sox been the home team in this contest, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t have won -- just based on the progression of the game and ignoring any statistical splits.

If the Red Sox are serious about making the postseason, they need pitching to pick up the slack once in a while. Because when they hit the road late in the year, games like will slip away when quality pitching is lacking.