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Last year was one of those charmed existences where in the wake of disaster everything came together for the Red Sox. They never spent a day with a losing record, spent 164 days in first place, and won the World Series.
Two out hits, late-game hits, you name it, it all came together in a magical run that produced the third championship in a decade.
Now seven months after the final out of the 2013 World Series, the Red Sox are not coming close to duplicating that magic. They are 20-26, have lost seven in a row, and the last six have been at home. To find the last time the Red Sox went without a victory on a homestand of at least six games, you have to go back to June 1994 during the mediocre Butch Hobson era.
The reasons for the Red Sox’ current tailspin of seven straight losses, a stretch that has seen them get outscored by a 37-16 margin, are multiple.
On their recent homestand, the Red Sox had a 5.16 ERA but the numbers that their hitters produced in the six games might offer a fuller picture in what happened. Besides runners in scoring position, a team’s clutch ability can be measured how they do with two outs and with men on base and, in three criteria, the Red Sox failed.
With runners in scoring position, the Red Sox batted .171 (7-for-41). With two outs, the Red Sox batted .150 (9-for-60). With men on base, they batted .149 (11-for-74).
For the season, the Red Sox are batting .238 with runners in scoring position (they batted .278 in 2013). They’re hitting .220 with two outs, down 40 points from last season. They’re also batting .244 with men on, a decrease of 41 points from last season.
Overall, their 185 runs are 13th in the AL as is the .245 batting average. Their 37 home runs are 10th but perhaps the most telling ranking is the 14 stolen bases, which rank next-to-last in the league and that might be a big indication of how much Jacoby Ellsbury is missed.
Ellsbury isn’t hitting much in New York lately but his replacement Jackie Bradley Jr. has yet to get it going. Bradley is at .201 with 45 strikeouts and three stolen bases and that’s part of a .191 average the Red Sox are getting from anyone who has played center field so far.
The greater question though is whether it’s a bump in the road or if it’s a precursor of what lies ahead for the Red Sox. Obviously players are going to say it’s a bump in the road and you wouldn’t expect anything else because if you’ve been in enough clubhouses over the years, those are the comments you will hear under the glare of TV cameras, notebooks and recorders.
Still, what the Red Sox did in their last six home games has to be confounding, but if there’s a silver lining it’s the state of the AL East. There’s not one dominant team even as Toronto has inched ahead of the Yankees and it’s possible to be a one good week away from producing a better outlook.
However, when you’ve gone through what the Red Sox just have, the last thing you need is another bad series or bad week because eventually those will catch up and create too much ground to cover.
There have been two teams with sub-500 records through May 22 that have eventually won the AL East: the 1973 Orioles and 1989 Blue Jays. That’s a small precedent but the way the division has unfolded so far, it might not be surprising if it happened a third time.
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