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There is no way to put it sugar-coat it; the Sox have been bad, terrible, atrocious, putrid, pick any negative word you would like and the Red Sox have embodied it. If the Toronto series wasn’t bad enough, the Red Sox extended their losing streak to nine games with a soul-crushing 15th inning loss Saturday night. It’s been a long time since the Red Sox have looked this bad.
Thankfully, the whole AL East has looked hapless this season. Heading into Sunday’s contests, only seven games separate the last place Sox and first place Jays. Despite Red Sox woes, the division is still entirely up for grabs. Before diagnosing the Red Sox ailments, let’s look at their competition:
Blue Jays (28-22)
The Jays have marched to the same beat in past years. There are high expectations entering the season, replaced by disappointment in late summer. That being said, the Jays boast one of the most powerful lineup cards in the MLB — just ask the Red Sox pitchers about Edwin Encarnacion.
As of late May the Jays have as good of a chance as any team in the AL East to win the division. They can certainly hit home runs when healthy, but their pitching needs to step up if they’re going to keep winning.
The first word that comes to mind is old. They are borderline ancient: Ichiro Suzuki (40), Jeter (39), Alfonso Soriano (38), Beltran (37), Brian Roberts (36) and the oft-injured Mark Tiexeria (34). Those guys make Ellsbury (30) look like a newborn pony still learning to stand on its legs.
If we’re being honest, I am not looking forward to facing Masahiro Tanaka several times a year for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, a playoff pitching staff needs more than a lone ace. If everyone stays healthy (unlikely) they could be in the playoff hunt. Chances are, the Yankees miss the playoffs and go on another huge offseason spending spree.
The Orioles are an interesting team. Their roster is among the most lopsided in terms of arms and bats. At the plate they have a deep, young roster with decent speed and great power. On the mound the Orioles are seemingly devoid of elite arms.
The O’s should put together enough runs to overcome their pitching deficiencies and post a decent record. In the last few years Buck Showalter’s squad has been notorious for grinding out close games and late season surges. However, if the AL East comes down to a sudden death play-in game, the O’s are at a pitching disadvantage versus every other team in the division.
The injury bug has plagued the Rays pitching staff this season. Except for Matt Moore (underwent season ending Tommy John surgery) a few Tampa Bay hurlers should be back on the mound soon. Pitching has always been the Rays staple in the Joe Maddon era, and the traditionally stingy staff has had steady success the last few years.
The Rays biggest concern should be a lumber shortage. Currently Zobrist is on the DL and the only slight glimmer of hope is the bat of Evan Longoria. They need to improve in the batter’s box, their pitching isn’t quite good enough to carry the entire time to October. With the pitching staff on the mend, the Rays should begin accumulating wins, despite their tepid offense.
Red Sox (20-28)
Pinpointing the Red Sox biggest concern during the nine-game slide is difficult. Quite frankly, everyone is to blame. No one has looked particularly good lately. It’s been ugly. As I would have said in third grade: they fell out of the ‘ugly tree’ and hit every branch on the way down.
But, Red Sox Nation is not without hope. Starting pitching has been fairly decent, Jon Lester (76 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched) has had some very nice games. Koji, when the rare save opportunity has been available, has done well. Offensively Big Papi with 11 homers is not far behind the league leader at 15 (unfortunately, one of the players boasting 15 dings is Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz). Skipper John Farrell hasn’t found much luck shuffling the batting order this season, simply put, the Red Sox need some type of gritty team-wide offensive spark. With plenty of baseball left to be played and no team in the AL East holding an insurmountable lead–the Red Sox, like every team in the division, has a chance of heating up and playing in October.