The hits just keep on coming, and unfortunately for the Boston Red Sox, they aren’t the club getting them. Jay Payton blasted a 2-out grand slam in the 7th inning yesterday, propelling the Baltimore Orioles to a 6-3 win over the struggling Red Sox. The loss concludes a 10-game road trip in which the Sox went 4-6 on, losing their final 4 games.
Payton had previously been 0-3 on the afternoon with three infield groundouts before delivering the knockout punch to the Sox. Hideki Okajima, who had just entered the game to face Payton, allowed the homerun ball. It was only the second homerun he has allowed all season.
A few bright notes in the game for the Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury had 3 hits on the afternoon. Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell both hit solo homeruns, and Manny Ramirez made an amazing defensive play in left, making an over the shoulder running grab towards the wall, and after catching the ball Ramirez jumped up the wall and reached into the stands to slap a Red Sox fan high-five. He followed it up by spinning around, hurling a dart to the cut-off man to get an outfield assist and double play to end the 5th inning.
The Sox now find themselves in 2nd place in the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Yes, that is not a typo, the Tampa Bay Rays lead the AL East by half a game on May 15th. This is the latest in a season that the Rays have been over .500 and the first time they have ever led the division in May.
So the big question, what’s wrong with the Sox?
Some will say that it’s a long season and every team has some losing streaks along the way. That right there is the attitude of a loser. The Sox lineup is too strong and their pitching staff too solid to go on 4-game losing streaks, and they’ve already done that two times this season.
Excuses will be made that the lineup hasn’t been completely healthy and the team has faired well considering injuries, sicknesses and leaves of absence by players forcing them to miss games. Only the weak make such excuses. This is Major League Baseball and teams face these issues everyday.
Reporters will begin to slam manager Terry Francona because he’s at the wheel of the ship, guiding the team along the way. That’s why they are reporters and not in uniform coaching. Francona has done nothing but win for Boston. In the 4+ years he’s been head coach the team has compiled a 399-292 record, good for a .577 win percentage during the regular season, not to mention 2 World Series titles. Francona isn’t the problem.
The problem lies within the players. They are the reigning World Series Champions and they’re taking it for granted. Too many hitters are not busting up the line to first base on ground balls, or making the extra effort in the field to back up a play. The fundamentals that got the team their success are slowing washing away and it’s not good.
The Red Sox better be careful or people will begin comparing them to their arch rivals, the New York Yankees.
Well for starters, they are going out and spending ridiculous amounts of money every single year to farm a great team. Sound familiar? The Yankees have baseball’s highest payroll, the Sox are currently 4th.
Besides the ever growing payroll, like the Yankees, the Sox have brought in talented players that play uninspired baseball and show no emotion. The front runner for this category for the Sox has to be J.D. Drew. You can never get a read off this guy when he’s playing because he never shows any signs of life. He could strike out 4 times or hit for the cycle and the look on his face wouldn’t change.
As a whole, the Sox look like they are just going through the motions and someone needs to light a fire under their bench to wake them up. Hopefully heading back to Fenway Park for this 7-game home series will ignite something that sparks a little life into their lineup. They’ve played much better at home then on the road this year, going 14-5 in front of the Fenway faithful.
It’s too early to say that the Sox are in trouble, but it’s also time for a gut check. Like it or not, they have their work cut out for them this summer and nothing is going to come easy. Red Sox Nation believes that it can happen again, now its time for the players to believe too.