Not even a full month into the 2014 season, whatever magic the Boston Red Sox possessed in winning the 2013 World Series feels like it's gone, perhaps bobbled away along with the five errors they made in an embarrassing 14-5 loss to the rival New York Yankees on Thursday night at Fenway Park that dropped them to last place in the AL East.
That, or maybe the good fortune was thrown away wildly by none other than first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp, who spent the ninth inning in a location he's not at all used to—that is, on the mound—throwing inaccurate knuckleballs on his way to surrendering a tough-to-watch five walks while still somehow managing to get three outs and give up only one run.
Safe to say, after last year's incredible turnaround season that culminated in a surprising, inspiring third championship in a decade, the Red Sox probably didn't expect—barely three weeks in—to have to watch Carp make his big league pitching debut while also playing an all-around sloppy game in which they not only used five pitchers (if we're counting Carp as a "pitcher) but also made a ghastly five errors on the way to falling to 10-13.
The last time Boston made five errors in one game? Try April 28...2001. Now the Red Sox are just hoping that April 24, 2014 was rock bottom.
"That's as bad as we can play," catcher David Ross said after, per Ian Browne of MLB.com. "That's a terrible game to be a part of. That's not big league baseball...We have to get better. Obviously that's not big league baseball. That's not Red Sox baseball."
Thursday's loss to the Yankees, meanwhile, already was Boston's fifth in seven games this month against New York. After the game, Yankees captain Derek Jeter reiterated, via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, that despite his team's success against the Red Sox so far, "They won the championship, they're the defending champions, so they're the team to beat."
The Red Sox, though, didn't look the part in dropping two of three to the Yankees at home.
Maybe it's just a World Series hangover that sometimes affects reigning champs after a long regular season, followed by an extended, pressure-packed October and then an abbreviated, anything-but-relaxing offseason. Or maybe it's that, in the wake of a year in which pretty much everything went just right, the Red Sox are enduring some sort of karmic stretch during which the opposite is happening at the outset of 2014.
Of course, there's also the fact that while the core of the club—David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester—remains intact, this is also a different Red Sox roster.
One that only just got veteran outfielder Shane Victorino back from a hamstring injury Thursday.
One that has gotten little-to-no production from Daniel Nava, the recently demoted outfielder; or A.J. Pierzynski, who was brought in to replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate; or right-hander Clay Buchholz, whose 7.71 ERA is six times higher than it was last April (1.19) when he was one of the best pitchers in baseball.
One that is relying on youngsters Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. to handle up-the-middle positions that last year were covered by Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury, respectively.
Speaking of Ellsbury, this series marked his return to Fenway. While the dynamic leadoff hitter is busy proving he's worth the $153 million the Yankees spent to get him to switch sides this offseason by hitting .337/.391/.482, the top of the Red Sox's order, by comparison, is sporting an big league-worst .175 average so far.
Still, let's recognize that it's extremely early. Boston is only 23 games into the season, and a 10-13 record can be turned around over one good weekend. And that might happen as the Red Sox head to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays in a three-game set.
The good news about hitting rock bottom, of course, is there's only one place to go—up. That's what the Red Sox have to keep in mind as they strive to fix what ails them and turn around this disastrous beginning.
As for how they might do that, manager John Farrell stressed that better pitching is the top priority, per Ricky Doyle of NESN:
It's got to be led by our starters. That's where, to me, any continuity and consistency can originate from; it's that group. And that's not to place added pressure on them. That's just to say that in past years and situations or stretches of games where you see it like this, it has to come from the starting rotation to set the tone.
But first, the Red Sox need to put Thursday's rock-bottom effort behind them. "The sooner we move past this one, the better," Farrell said, via Browne. "We need to execute at a higher level, without question."
Ross, the 13-year veteran, echoed that sentiment: "If you look at the big picture, this is one night. When you hold on to games like this, you're in for a long season. Let's scrap that one, let's flush that one down the toilet."
And don't forget to close the lid.
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