Commentary

Red Sox trying to hold together

Bobby Valentine, players say all the right things despite ongoing doldrums

Updated: July 24, 2012, 10:09 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Winning streaks and losing skids are a normal part of the baseball culture during the grueling 162-game season.

For the Boston Red Sox, there have been more skids than streaks in 2012, and after Monday's 9-1 loss to the Texas Rangers at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Boston had lost four in a row at a crucial part of the season.

[+] EnlargeFelix Doudront
AP Photo/LM OteroWith the Red Sox needing a solid start, Felix Doubront had one of his worst outings of the season.

The skids are adding up for the Red Sox. They've already had three losing streaks of five games and two more four-gamers, including the current string. The club's longest winning streak was six games in late April.

The Red Sox are 5-6 since the All-Star break and are 48-49 overall, dropping below the .500 mark for the first time since June 16. Just when the club believes it has turned a corner, something always seems to happen to reverse their course.

"I think we're all miserable," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who went 3-for-4 Monday night. "Nobody in here likes losing. We want to win -- every single one of us."

Injuries have had a significant effect on the Red Sox, but they don't want to use that as an excuse. Most recently, after Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury finally were reunited at the top of the lineup, hot-hitting slugger David Ortiz went on the disabled list with a right Achilles strain and will be out till at least Aug. 1.

The biggest mystery is the team's starting pitching, and on a night when the Red Sox desperately needed another solid pitching performance by Felix Doubront, the left-hander struggled in one of his worst starts of the season.

Doubront has been the Sox's most consistent starter, but he worked just five innings (plus two batters in the sixth), allowing six runs on eight hits with three walks and six strikeouts. The earned runs, and his 111 pitches (67 strikes), both matched career highs.

Prior to Monday's start, Doubront was 5-0 with a 2.76 ERA in eight starts following a Red Sox loss this season. Boston was 7-1 in those eight games. But those trends ended Monday night.

There's only one thing that will turn this around.

"Good pitching and timely hitting," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "We're due for it."

Anyone can look at Boston's lineup and realize this club should be better than it is.

"It's tough. We're fighting," Pedroia said. "We're trying all we can to do something and spark something. Maybe we should take a step back. When you try to do something and try to get a hit, the game doesn't come to you. I've done that, a lot of guys have done that. We just need to take a step back, play the game and have fun.

"Playing good, that's it. Don't get too down. We've been here before. We've come back from 2-10 at the start of last year and we fought back. There are a lot of guys in here that believe in each other. We'll be fine."

That 2-10 start was in 2011. Now it's the middle of July and the Sox can't seem to stay out of the AL East basement.

With the trade deadline quickly approaching on July 31, general manager Ben Cherington & Co. have focused their attention on trying to acquire a starting pitcher. In fact, a contingent of Red Sox scouts were in Miami on Monday night to watch Marlins starter Josh Johnson, who worked six shutout innings, allowing just one hit with no walks and nine strikeouts. However, he was removed from the game with skin irritation on his right middle finger.

With the Red Sox in the midst of a four-game skid, Pedroia was asked whether he believes the front office should become sellers and not buyers before the trade deadline.

"I hope not," he said. "With that second wild card, it could come down to the last week of the season. I was talking to Gary Tuck on the bus and he tells me every year, 'Look at the standings Sept. 15 and see where you're at' and usually every year, I remember 2010 we had half of our starters hurt, and we looked up Sept. 15 and we were still there, so we've got to keep fighting. That's our mindset."

As quiet as the clubhouse was after Monday's loss, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez doesn't seem too worried and believes the team will be fine.

"All we can focus on is going out and playing the game today," Gonzalez said. "That's all we can control and I'm pretty sure that's how everyone feels in here. We're not focused on the trade deadline."

Earlier Monday, Valentine spoke with struggling starter Jon Lester to formulate a plan moving forward in an attempt to rejuvenate the left-hander. There was some question whether Valentine would skip Lester in his next scheduled start, but the manager said after Monday's loss that Lester would start against the Yankees on Saturday in New York.

"We've got a proactive plan," Valentine said. "He's going to throw Wednesday, maybe to a couple of hitters and get a feel for a couple of his pitches. He says he feels great and is throwing the ball as well as he has in a couple of years. We've just got to get him to a point where his good stuff is getting hitters out and he says he's ready to do that."

He has to show it. The entire pitching staff does.

"We'll be all right, we've got to keep fighting," Pedroia said. "No one said this was going to be easy, it never is here, but we'll find a way. It seems like nothing's going our way, but we've got to keep playing."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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