Monday, May 12, 2014
Figuring out where the Sox stand
By Gordon Edes
MINNEAPOLIS -- A dozen observations on the Red Sox prior to their opening a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins Tuesday night in Target Field:
• The stars are aligning.Dustin Pedroia had only the second four-strikeout game of his career Thursday night and was held hitless the next night during Yu Darvish’s no-hit bid, but rebounded with two hits Saturday and a home run and double Sunday. In his last 10 games, Pedroia has posted a .341/.449/.610/1.059 slash line, with 14 hits, 8 walks, 9 runs and 2 home runs.
Meanwhile, David Ortiz said that when the weather heats up, so does Papi, and with a .308/.413/.564/.977 slash line this month, he’s definitely trending in the right direction.
• The young and the restless. The bottom three hitters in the Sox order -- Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks -- are batting a combined .168 (16-for-95) this month, with 34 strikeouts. Middlebooks does not have an extra-base hit in May; Bradley has two doubles, Bogaerts one. Bogaerts broke an 0-for 15-skid with an infield hit Sunday.
Andrew Miller has six scoreless appearances and 12 strikeouts in six innings during May.
• Miller time. Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller has been sensational this month, with six scoreless appearances and 12 strikeouts in six innings. He has allowed just one hit, a single, to the 21 batters he has faced, and has not walked a batter.
• Welcome relief. Miller, Burke Badenhop, Craig Breslow, Edward Mujica and Koji Uehara have allowed one earned run in 22 innings this month. The run came on Yunel Escobar’s home run off Uehara, who in his last two appearances, against the Reds and Rangers, has struck out five of the six batters he has faced, throwing a total of 27 pitches.
• Slipping back.Daniel Nava is batting just .229 (8-for-35) this month with 12 strikeouts in Pawtucket. He has one extra-base hit in that time, a home run. Sox manager John Farrell said at this stage the only way Nava would be recalled would be because of an injury, which must present a challenge to Nava to maintain his usual positive attitude.
• Solid starts. Red Sox starters have gone at least six innings in eight of their 10 starts this month, posting a 4-2 record and 3.32 ERA in that span. Compare that to Tampa Bay, which has lost three starters to injury and only seven times in its last 25 games has had a starter go five innings or more.
Despite some signs of progress from Felix Doubront in his last start (1 ER in 5 1/3 innings, 13 swings and misses), the left-hander, who is scheduled to start Tuesday night, still is prone to maddening drifts in focus and remains anything but dependable at this stage.
• Leading man. Twins leadoff man Brian Dozier has stolen more bases (12) than the Sox have as a team. Dozier’s nine home runs are more than anyone on the Sox has.
• Running out. How bad has the Sox running game been (11 stolen bases, 11 caught stealing)? In the last dozen years, the Sox stole an average of 61 bases more than they were caught stealing. Since 1953, only three Sox teams have been caught stealing more often than they were successful: 1992 (44 steals, 48 caught), 1969 (41 steals, 47 caught) and 1953 (33 steals, 45 caught).
• Walking the line. Do you get the feeling teams are willing to pitch around Mike Napoli? He’s just 5-for-29 this month, with two doubles his only extra-base hits, but he has walked a dozen times, most on the team.
• Bumps in the road. Only Houston (.218) has a lower batting average on the road than the Sox (.222). Boston was at .214 after being held to one hit by Darvish on Friday night, but collected 19 hits in the next two games against the Rangers.
• Double vision. The Sox had 11 hits Saturday, the 12th time in 37 games they’ve reached double figures. That projects to 53 double-figure hit games this season. Last season, they had 10 or more hits 76 times. The Sox have had 10 or more hits in three of their last five games, so maybe things are looking up.
• Which brings us to our final observation: They remain a work in progress, but the Sox have won six of their last eight games, and have a chance Tuesday night to post their first three-game winning streak of the season.