Commentary

Not much going right for Red Sox

Updated: April 15, 2014, 1:55 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

CHICAGO -- A year ago through 13 games, the Boston Red Sox were 9-4 and in the middle of a seven-game winning streak that took them to 12-4 in a season in which they never had less than a winning record and their low-water mark was third place, and then for just a couple of days in May.

The Red Sox open a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night with a 5-8 record after losing three of four to Yankees Anonymous, a New York team that prevailed despite having an infield that collectively had played just a handful of games in pinstripes, a backup closer, and Derek Jeter available for only the first two games of the series because of a sore leg. Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte, Bronx Bombers? Where have you gone, Joe ...?

[+] EnlargeMike Carp
AP Photo/Kathy WillensMike Carp reacts after striking out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning Sunday, part of a lost weekend for the Red Sox.

The Sox are in last place in an AL East where all five teams are within two games of each other, one of the few early-season developments that has worked in Boston's favor. None of the division rivals have gotten off to a fast start either.

Right fielder Shane Victorino has yet to appear in a game. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks hasn't played in eight days and isn't eligible to return until Sunday. Closer Koji Uehara reported stiffness in his shoulder Friday and hasn't pitched since. Dustin Pedroia was scratched from the lineup with what was called soreness in his left wrist, went back to Boston for tests on Monday and called it "great news" when he learned his wrist wasn't broken. Sore wrist, indeed.

"There are a lot of moving parts right now," outfielder Jonny Gomes said Sunday. "You look over your left shoulder, there's someone. You look over your right shoulder, there's someone, and then tomorrow it's different. A lot of revolving parts."

Red Sox manager John Farrell has used the same batting order only twice in 13 games. He has used four leadoff men. The Sox have scored four runs or fewer nine times. There have been five games of two runs or fewer. They've had just two games with multiple home runs, hit into 17 double plays in their first nine games (that trend ended in New York with four straight games without a GIDP), and are batting a collective .204 with runners in scoring position.

Pedroia is 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, explained in part by his playing for more than a week with a wrist he feared was broken. New catcher A.J. Pierzynski also is 1-for-10, while rookie Xander Bogaerts is 0-for-11.

Bogaerts has yet to drive in a run in 13 games. Pedroia has one RBI. Pedroia, Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have no home runs among them.

Daniel Nava is locked in one of the worst slumps of his career, with just six hits in 43 at-bats. The Sox promoted Nava as a logical candidate to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot because of his high on-base percentage, which was .385 last season. So far this season, the OBP is .229, and Nava has struck out 10 times while drawing three walks.

The Red Sox lost a game Sunday that was decided by a run that scored only after umpires reversed a call at first base; the umps failed to do the same the day before on a play in which the Sox were clearly in the right.

The Sox stranded a runner at third base over the weekend when the next two batters both made outs on the first pitch. The team that had 11 walk-off hits last season has yet to have its first this season; it also has yet to score a run in the first inning, the only team in baseball that hasn't scored on its first at-bat. (That's mitigated by the fact the Sox have allowed only one first-inning run.)

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The Sox are 5-0 when they lead after six innings, 0-8 when they're tied or trail after six innings.

The weekend in the Bronx offered a primer in things that are going wrong this season that seemed fail-safe a year ago. Down two runs Saturday, manager John Farrell elected to have Mike Carp try to steal second on an 0-and-2 pitch, thinking reliever Dellin Betances might bounce a breaking ball. Betances threw a fastball up and away, an easy pitch for catcher Brian McCann to throw to second, easily nailing Carp to end a rally.

On Sunday, third-base coach Brian Butterfield elected to send Bradley home on Grady Sizemore's base hit to left; Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner threw a strike home to nab Bradley. Carp pinch hit in the eighth inning with the bases loaded in a one-run game; he struck out.

"If you've watched us play, you see how we're not clicking on all cylinders by any means," Gomes said, "and yet we're in every single game. We haven't thrown the towel in one time. It's typical of every team; there are nights you pitch and don't hit, nights you hit and don't pitch, nights you kick the ball around and don't hit.

"Every season is different. Last year our big identity was wearing the pitcher down. We can't ask Bogie, who is young; Jackie, who is young, and A.J. [Pierzynski], who swings at everything, to change their approaches. You can't ask a young guy to take a lot of pitches. So we have to find this new identity. Last year, we didn't have that identity the first month. We didn't know it was happening. Something is happening in here, and we have to jump on and ride it."

Bradley and Bogaerts actually have shown patience at the plate above the league average, both seeing more than four pitches per plate appearance. Pierzynski, meanwhile, sees 2.89 pitches per PA, but is batting over .300.

There are some encouraging signs. Sox pitchers have made nine quality starts in the first 13 games, a 69 percent rate that is third in the league. The bullpen has allowed only two of 17 inherited runners to score, and Uehara, Junichi Tazawa and newcomer Chris Capuano all are unscored upon.

And Bradley's defense in center field has been exemplary.

"He's been outstanding every time he walks on the field," said Farrell, whose words suggest that the Red Sox will think long and hard about returning Bradley to the minors when Victorino is activated.

How do the Sox break out of this early funk?

"To compete every pitch, whether it's offensively or when we're on the mound," Farrell said. "We've got to get back -- not that we've drifted away from a simple, focused approach -- but that's the only way we right this and get back on track. That's to go out and try to win every pitch that we execute, offensively or defensively."

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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