<
>

Nothing seems to change for Red Sox

6/10/2014

BALTIMORE -- You really couldn’t argue with the man’s logic.

"I don’t have much to say, guys," David Ortiz said to reporters as he packed up his man bag. "What the [use your imagination] am I going to say?"

In Ortiz’s world, where hits carry considerably more currency than words, no amount of explication, exhortation or exclamation could offer an adequate substitute for what the Red Sox once again failed to say on the field Monday night.

The Sox were shut out for the fifth time in 2014, this time by Orioles right-hander Bud Norris, who discovered a level of mastery against the Sox that had eluded him this season -- nay, for all of his career -- in a 4-0 win Monday night.

David Stefan Norris, the pride of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, is in his sixth season in the big leagues. Monday night was his 139th major league start. This was the first time he had gone at least eight scoreless innings while holding an opponent to three hits or fewer.

"We ran into a good pitcher," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Or maybe Norris, a perfectly adequate pitcher who has lost 11 more games than he has won in his career, ran into exactly the team to make him look like he was pitching on this side of awesome o’clock.

Brock Holt led off the game with a single. Daniel Nava shot a double past first baseman Chris Davis in the fifth. David Ross doubled into the left-field corner in the eighth. The rest of the team: 0-for-21, with three hard-hit balls among them. Only one Sox player (Ross in the eighth) advanced as far as third base. In only one inning, the sixth, did they have as many as two baserunners, and that was when Jonathan Herrera and Holt walked, a rally cut short when J.J. Hardy swallowed up Dustin Pedroia’s bullet for an inning-ending force.

The Sox had as many hits (three) as the Orioles had home runs. Adam Jones hit a pitch that was down and away for his 10th home run in the first. Ryan Flaherty hit a first-pitch fastball that was up but a bit away for his third home run in the seventh. Jake Peavy said he could live with the location of those pitches. The breaking ball he hung to Nick Markakis for a two-run home run in the fifth? That’s the one he wants back. "That was a bad pitch," he said.

Peavy, who hasn’t won since April 25 and has won only once all season, gave the Sox a chance to win, Ross said Monday night, alluding to the seven innings and seven whiffs that Peavy racked up.

But Peavy could have been perfect -- delivered a clean sheet, in the parlance familiar to Liverpool -- and still come away with no better than a draw.

The Sox are 0-18 in games in which they’ve scored fewer than three runs. They’re an American League-worst 15-26 against right-handed starters.

The few chances they had with runners in scoring position Monday night, the Sox came up empty, 0-for-5. They were 6-for-46 with RISP until Ortiz launched a three-run home run Sunday night in Detroit. That blast won a game; it did nothing to turn a season.

Ortiz admitted he hoped there would be some carryover. The late Sunday night game, and the 4 a.m. arrival into Baltimore, evidently took some of the air out of that notion.

"It seems like the late game caught up with everybody," he said. "Everybody played hard, but the intensity was not usual."

Last season, when they won 97 games, the Sox might have found a way to brush aside the fatigue. Just as likely, they might have lost but, cocooned among so many wins, no one would have even noticed. But when you’ve lost six of seven games on a trip that still has two nights to go, and you’re 10 games out of first place with 99 to go, the Sox could have arrived by dogsled just 10 minutes before first pitch and evinced no sympathy from the folks back home.

The grumbling already is escalating about Stephen Drew, the shortstop who is 1-for-14 since being re-signed and missed his third game out of seven after feeling some tightness in his right oblique muscle. Drew is making no predictions about when he might return.

"Hopefully not too long," he said Monday night. "I don’t know yet. I play it by ear. It’s day-by-day. It’s kind of weird, that an off-balance swing can do all that. We’ll see where we’re at tomorrow."

The eminence grise of the baseball-writing profession, Peter Gammons, over the weekend blamed “media manipulation” -- criticism of Xander Bogaerts’ defense at short -- for the Sox's decision to bring back Drew.

The problems with that theory are (1) the issue was never about Bogaerts but about who would play third with Will Middlebrooks out with a fractured finger; and (2) Farrell himself had made it pretty clear from Day 1 that Drew was missed, for the depth and experience he could provide. At the time Drew was re-signed, no one could have foreseen Holt morphing into a latter-day Pete Rose. If the Sox could have acquired a third baseman as painlessly as they did Drew, they would have done so.

And while the Knights of the Keyboard in these parts have always had an inflated view of their self-importance, the notion that Ben Cherington or Larry Lucchino would base a decision on what they read on Twitter, in a blog or in a newspaper would automatically disqualify them from holding their current positions.

Cherington’s critics already are dismayed that the GM paid $10 million for a shortstop, arguing that money could have been spent on a bat. They won’t be happier to hear that Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, had reached an understanding that he would join the team the minute he had waited the required 10 days of his minor-league assignment, whether the team deemed he’d had adequate preparation or not. Farrell had hinted that was the case Monday afternoon.

"I’m not going to comment on negotiations," Cherington wrote in an e-mail Monday night. "We felt at the time he signed that his physical condition would allow him to be ready pretty quickly. We knew it may take a little while for him to get [his] timing down, but the stability he brought to the infield made up for that."

That stability will eventually come, but it’s clearly a work in progress. The outfield, meanwhile, has reached critical mass. Jackie Bradley Jr., who struck out in eight of his 10 at-bats in Detroit, was benched Monday. Grady Sizemore played center, did not square up a ball in three hitless at-bats, and may be down to his last days of trying to prove he should stick. Holt is clearly the preferred option in left, and Nava, who doubled and walked and is batting .400 (6-for-15) on this trip, may finally be coming around.

One of these days -- still a blurry proposition -- Shane Victorino will be back. Shoot, by then Holt may be playing center, the way things are going. But the hourglass is running out on the status quo. Nights like these have become too frequent. But there is no blockbuster deal for an outfielder waiting to be made either. Not for a team that has yet to show in 2014 it is built to make a push to October.