Boston Red Sox: What We Learned from New York Yankees Series

Adam MacDonald@adammacdoAnalyst IIJuly 9, 2012

Boston Red Sox: What We Learned from New York Yankees Series

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    The New York Yankees' four-game trip to Fenway Park could have left the Boston Red Sox reeling at the bottom of the AL East, with a double-digit deficit on their division-leading rivals. 

    When the dust had settled, the Yanks had taken three of the four games, hit Sox pitching hard early in the games, and reduced the Sox to a .500 record at the All-Star break.

    So what did we learn after a weekend where the Yankees continued their recent domination of the Red Sox?

Starting Pitching Is Still a Concern

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    Boston's starting pitching has been among the worst in baseball this year, and is the primary reason why the team is still languishing at the .500 mark.

    However, it had been getting better as of late; Daisuke Matsuzaka was the only pitcher not to manage a quality start on Boston's seven-game road trip.

    The Red Sox returned to Fenway Park and were shelled early and often. Josh Beckett, who was 4-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA against the Yankees last year, gave up three runs before recording an out. The score was 5-0 by the end of the first inning, and he gave up six earned runs by the time he left the game.

    Franklin Morales had a 2.00 ERA in three starts this season and was coming off a great performance against Seattle, pitching seven shutout innings. He too was hit hard by New York, surrendering six runs in 3.1 innings.

    Felix Doubront recovered after a three-run first and was very effective. But Jon Lester ended the series, and his underwhelming first half, by allowing five runs in 4.1 IP.

    The rotation has bounced between mediocre and terrible and will be the defining factor in the Red Sox's failure to reach the postseason, should they fall short in September.

David Ortiz Is Great, but Needs Protection

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    If David Ortiz can repeat in the second half what he has managed in the first, he will have had his best season in half a decade.

    Big Papi is on pace to hit .312, with an OPB of .406, 100 walks and a .406 slugging percentage, all of which would be the best he has managed since 2007.

    He's also on pace for more than 40 home runs, which would be his best since a franchise-record 54 in 2006.

    Over the weekend, Papi was great, going 7-for-13 and walking six times. In July, he is hitting .385 with a .528 OBP. He has walked in seven straight games and hit in 13 of his last 14.

    The biggest issue the Sox have with Ortiz is that they have little protection behind him. Adrian Gonzalez is struggling even to hit doubles, let alone home runs.

    When he was replaced by Nick Punto on Sunday night, Papi was never going to get something easy to hit.

Injuries Aren't Affecting This Team

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    The Red Sox have been ravaged by injuries, with 20 players visiting the DL at some point this season.

    Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, Andrew Bailey, Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Sweeney all figured to play big roles in this team but have spent part, or all, of 2012 on the DL.

    You would think that this would have hurt the Sox, and is surely one of the reasons they are .500 and tied for last in the AL East.

    It's not.

    Boston hasn't missed their injured players. Dustin Pedroia went down before the Yankees series but the Sox didn't skip a beat at second base.

    Pedro Ciriaco was the driving force behind Boston's sole win on Saturday night, going 4-for-5 with four RBI, two doubles and a stolen base. He picked up where he left off on Sunday, going 3-for-4 with another steal and two runs scored.

    And that's been indicative of the whole season. Youk goes down and Will Middlebrooks emerges as a good young player at 3B.

    Crawford and Ellsbury have played a total of seven games between them. Daniel Nava and Cody Ross have picked up the slack.

    Nava was batting above .300 before a recent cold spell; Ross is third on the team in home runs. Andrew Bailey undergoes surgery in spring training, Alfredo Aceves steps up as a very effective closer.

    Even when their injured stars return, they would have to play at an MVP-type level to be able to improve on those who have replaced them.

Adrian Gonzalez Is Getting Better

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    Boston's $154 million first baseman has had a terrible season, by far the worst of his career.

    His recent 18-game hitting streak has raised his batting average to a respectable .283, but the lack of power is disheartening.

    Despite playing in every one of Boston's 86 games, Gonzalez has hit just six home runs, albeit one as a pinch hitter. He leads the league in doubles with 27 but even on his streak, he managed only six extra base hits.

    Last season he was woeful against the Yankees, hitting below .200 with two home runs in 18 games.

    If there's one good thing to be taken from his season so far, it's that he is looking better against New York. Over the weekend, he was 7-for-15 with three doubles and a walk, which have been hard to come by in 2012.

    For a guy who was hitting .257 20 games ago, it's an encouraging sign.

    Adam MacDonald is a Scottish journalism student at GCU and has been a featured columnist for the Boston Red Sox since October 2010. You can follow him on Twitter, or tell him how awesome/terrible this article was, by clicking here.