Boston Red Sox: 5 Things We Learned from the Twins Series
The Boston Red Sox have definitely hit an early-season wall. After getting swept in Texas at the hands of the Rangers, they returned home to Fenway Park and promptly dropped three out of four to the middling Twins.
While it’s entirely too early to allow such struggles to be a major concern, losing six of those seven games is not something manager John Farrell wanted to see after the Sox got off to the best start in MLB. Like in the previous few seasons, injuries are starting to play a major role in Boston's struggles, as a lack of bullpen depth has had a trickledown effect on the rest of the rotation.
There are certainly lessons to be learned from this poor showing, though. Here are five things that Sox fans can take from the Minnesota series:
The Sox May Not Be as Good as We Thought…
It was somewhat understandable when the Sox were swept on the road in Texas. The Rangers are a very good team, and the Sox ran into three very good pitchers who all threw very well. Fair enough.
But this was a bit different; the Twins are decent at best, relying on a host of unproven players to stay at or around .500. This is an opponent the Sox should be able to dispatch if they’re truly a 90-plus win team.
The offense started to come back to life during the series, scoring 4.5 runs per game. However, the pitching failed spectacularly (5.68 ERA), most notably on Wednesday night when it allowed a deeply troubling 15 runs.
While it’s certainly premature to say that Boston's amazing April was an aberration, this recent stretch of poor play is certainly of concern.
…But They Have a Lot More Character
It may be a small thing, but sometimes brief moments in a game can speak volumes about the positive (or negative) direction in which a team is headed.
With runners on first and second and nobody out in the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s 15-8 debacle, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a tailor-made double play ball to second base. Hustling all the way down the line, Ellsbury beat the throw to first, and one batter later Daniel Nava hit a sacrifice fly to plate Boston's final run.
Now obviously the run didn’t really matter, but the fact that even in a blowout the Sox were playing hard is a welcome sign after last year’s horribly listless performance. Ellsbury’s hustle came on the heels of a diving stop by Dustin Pedroia, and the fact that these two stars of the team obviously care even in bad times is a welcome change.
Clay Buchholz Is Human
It would have been really nice if Clay Buchholz could have come out and thrown another gem on Monday night. But after six starts in which he had gone seven or more innings and allowed two or fewer earned runs, he was bound for a letdown.
After struggling early, he settled in and salvaged a decent overall stat line. For those still bogged down in the spitball/sunscreen/other substance controversy, Buchholz still had incredible movement on his pitches despite a lack of any sort of residue on his arm. His issue was one of location, as in the early innings he left several pitches over the plate that the Twins did not miss.
The right-hander was bound to have a rough outing at some point, so this hiccup is certainly not cause for alarm. If four earned runs over six innings really constitutes a “bad” start for Buchholz in 2013, this is going to be an amazing season.
The No. 5 Spot of the Rotation Is a Big Problem
The glimmer of hope that Allan Webster brought lasted all of two batters on Wednesday night. After striking out Jamey Carroll to start the game, the talented right-hander faced 13 more hitters and got exactly four of them out (and two of those were sacrifice flies).
Needless to say, it doesn’t look like Webster is the answer right now.
Felix Doubront got a chance in relief and did not look great, although admittedly it’s a tough spot for someone to succeed in when he's been starting all year then suddenly has to come out of the bullpen. The fact remains that Doubront’s velocity was down again, a troubling problem that has lingered all season.
The left-hander will get another crack at finding his form from last season. However, we may see more current minor leaguers (Rubby De La Rosa? Alfredo Aceves?) get a shot as well if things don’t improve.
Stephen Drew Is Going to Be Fine
So much for all that Jose Iglesias chatter.
While many doubted him, Stephen Drew has come around at the plate and is showing why the Sox shelled out over $9 million for him this season. He was simply fantastic against Minnesota, getting four hits (including a walk-off wall ball single) in the first game of the series, and overall went eight for 16 with a double, a home run and five RBI.
Sox fans love to hate the Drew family, and it can hardly be disputed that Stephen was given a particularly short leash simply because of his name. The fact remains, though, that he is a very good everyday player who plays solid defense at shortstop as well.
With Iglesias struggling/pouting in Triple-A, it certainly seems that barring injury Drew is going to be the shortstop all season. And with the way he’s hitting, that’s exactly how it should be.