The Boston Red Sox are currently in the basement of the American League East and need their prize players to spark a second half rally.
Just under 10 games back of the division-leading New York Yankees, the Red Sox haven't been able to muster any momentum this season. The time is now to right the ship.
However, that will only happen if some key players can regain their form.
Here are six studs who must step up.
Jacoby Ellsbury's dislocated shoulder has hampered Boston's season.
On Friday, the 13th of April, Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury dislocated his shoulder sliding into second base. The injury caused the Red Sox to retool their outfield in an attempt to replace the 2011 AL MVP candidate.
Despite help from stopgaps like Marlon Byrd, Darnell McDonald, Scott Podsednik and others, the Sox were unable to compensate for the loss of their speedy center fielder.
Now, Ellsbury is back and must reestablish himself as one of the best young outfielders in the Majors. Hitting under .230 on the year, Ellsbury has to get it going—now.
It's the dog days of July and the Oregon State product is unlikely to spike his average up to the .321 clip he hit at last year. Yet his glove, base-running prowess and bat should be able to help the Sox make a push.
Jon Lester hasn't had the season he hoped for.
Red Sox ace Jon Lester is having a down year.
The two-time All-Star is 5-6 with an ERA of 4.49—nearly a run higher than his career average. He hasn't pitched deeper than seven innings in his last 10 starts and will be hard-pressed to match the 15 wins he posted last year.
Boston needs their No. 1 arm to pitch like the best guy in the rotation. Right now, the only pitcher in the Sox rotation with a sub-4.00 ERA is Franklin Morales. When a longtime reliever is more effective than a team's top starter, something has to change.
Lester hasn't been terrible, but he hasn't been great, either. He needs to put it together before the Wild Card gets out of reach.
Adrian Gonzalez's numbers are down from last year.
Adrian Gonzalez hit .338 with 27 home runs and 117 runs batted in during his debut season with the Red Sox. A year later, Gonzalez's average is down 52 points and he's only gone yard six times.
By his standards, he has under-performed in 2012. The Sox could use a turnaround from the $154-million man.
David Ortiz has racked up 23 long balls and 58 RBI, but he can't do it all himself in the thick of Boston's lineup.
Recently, Gonzalez has turned it around. In his last 10 games, A-Gon has hit up around the .390 mark. Still, the power isn't there. In those games, Boston's No. 4 batter has hit zero home runs with just two RBI.
Carl Crawford's health has kept him out of action.
He hit .255 with 11 home runs, 56 RBI and just 18 stolen bases last season. Those uncharacteristic numbers look far better compared to this season—Crawford hasn't been healthy enough to play.
The 30-year-old has been held out with wrist, elbow and groin injuries. Yet according to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, Crawford will be making his season premiere on Monday, July 16.
This will be Crawford's next opportunity to prove his worth. His blazing speed on the base paths cannot be taught, but it remains to be seen if Crawford will be able to even get on base.
How Crawford plays from here on out will be critical for Boston. Daniel Nava has been admirable in left field and deserves a full-time job, but Crawford was a costly investment.
The Red Sox need Dustin Pedroia to shine.
Currently on the 15-day disabled list, the Pedroia is helpless until healthy. He voiced his frustration to Edes after suffering thumb woes for the second time:
"I don't know who I ticked off," he said. "I'm pretty frustrated by it. You work so hard in the offseason to prevent an injury and get a couple freak accidents in the same thumb, it stinks.
"I'll be fine. I'll produce in a major way this season to help our team. I promise you guys that."
Even though the Laser Show has only hit .266 this season, nobody has ever questioned his work ethic. He's the mold of what Boston desperately needs: A guy with heart and grit.
A far cry from hitting .307 with 21 home runs and 91 RBI a year ago, all that matters is that Boston's second baseman gets back on the field and lights a fire under his teammates.
Cody Ross has lost his groove of late.
Cody Ross's 13 home runs has provided some pop in the bottom half of the Boston batting order. However, he's currently stuck in a rut.
Ross was hitting .287 when July started. Now, his average has plummeted to .259. The 31-year-old is swinging below the putrid .100 mark this month. That won't help Boston's chances.
With Ryan Sweeney also encountering a rough patch and getting only five base knocks in his last 10 contests, the Sox could use some dependability from the right field position.