Following the Red Sox over the past two weeks, it’s often felt like you’re watching two different clubs. One is a masher capable of piling on runs and crushing opponents under its boot, and the other a punchless outfit that seemingly can’t hit its way out of a wet paper bag.
Unfortunately for Boston, we’ve seen a lot more of the latter lately.
Since returning home from Atlanta, the Red Sox have gone 4-8 in their last 12 games, sandwiching a pair of four-game losing streaks around a four-game win streak. Though pitching has been the dominant narrative throughout that stretch — between Kenley Jansen’s uncharacteristic struggles and the intrigue surrounding the future of the starting rotation — the offense has ultimately driven the Red Sox recent success and failure.
During Boston’s first four-game losing streak, the Red Sox scored five runs in their last three games, including just one run in their series finale against St. Louis and the following night’s opener against Seattle. Then, over the ensuring four games, the Red Sox bats erupted for 31 runs in four games, fueling Boston to a pair of series wins against the Mariners and San Diego Padres.
Now? The bats have disappeared again.
The Red Sox have lost four straight since Sunday’s series finale in San Diego, including a disappointing three-game sweep against a Los Angeles Angels club the Red Sox handled easily at Fenway Park last month. Overall, Boston has scored four runs over its last 41 innings, including just one over a three-game stretch before scoring three in Wednesday’s 7-3 loss to the Angels.
Whether it’s Chris Sale, Nick Pivetta or Sandy Koufax in his prime, it’s not going to matter who you trot out any given day if the offense is hitting like that.
So what’s the problem exactly? It’s not unusual for players to go through hot and cold streaks over the course of a long season, but it’s not too often you see an entire lineup go ice cold all at once.
Alex Verdugo, who has enjoyed a breakout year to put himself into All-Star consideration, is just 2 for his last 20 (.100) over the last week. Rafael Devers, since hitting two home runs in Friday’s win over San Diego, is 2 for his last 19 (.174) with no extra base hits.
Justin Turner? He’s 0 for his last 11. Kiké Hernández? He’s 3 for 16 (.188). Triston Casas is 2 for 15 (.133) and Jarren Duran has especially struggled, going 1 for his last 23 (.044).
The only ones really producing lately have been Masataka Yoshida (7 for 24, .292), Connor Wong (4 for 14, .286) and Enmanuel Valdez (3 for 12, .250), but it’s hard to sustain consistent offense when two thirds of your lineup have been black holes, and it’s not like those three have necessarily been tearing the cover off the ball, either.
The good news is there’s reason to expect this slump shouldn’t last long. The Red Sox got a chance to rest and reset during Thursday’s off-day and the club will also get Memorial Day off this coming Monday as well. Boston also ranks fourth in MLB in runs scored per game (5.24), tied for first in doubles (108) and eighth in team OPS (.765), so by and large these recent skids have been the outliers, not an indicator of who the Red Sox really are.
That being said, the Red Sox are now 26-24 at nearly the season’s one-third mark and entered Thursday 2.5 games back of the last playoff spot, good for fifth overall in the American League Wild Card standings. Their next opponent, the Arizona Diamondbacks, are 29-21 and one of baseball’s most improved clubs too, so the schedule isn’t doing the Red Sox any favors.
If the bats get going and the Red Sox can take a series win in Arizona, they’ll come home with some momentum and a chance to start June off from a position of strength. But if not? The Red Sox could look up this time next week with a losing record and a bigger gap to make up right as the first-place Tampa Bay Rays come to town.
Bloom: Kluber’s command ‘surprising’
During his appearance on WEEI’s Greg Hill Show on Wednesday morning, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was taken to task for the decision to move on from former Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi and the subsequent signing of Corey Kluber, who was just moved to the bullpen after nine disappointing starts.
Eovaldi, who instead joined the Texas Rangers on a two-year, $34 million deal, has gone 6-2 with a 2.60 ERA in his first 10 starts with Texas and threw his second complete game on Tuesday. The question, posed by WEEI’s Chris Curtis, was don’t you at some point get what you pay for?
Though Bloom declined to get too deep into the discussions and decision-making processes that led to Eovaldi ultimately signing with the Rangers, he did address the underlying sentiment about Kluber, specifically noting that Kluber’s command issues have been highly uncharacteristic.
“Corey has a pretty good track record of throwing strikes and for whatever reason through nine starts he just hasn’t done that consistently, just hasn’t executed pitches consistently. Which is obviously pretty surprising because that’s never been who he is before all his injuries, since the injuries,” Bloom said. “I’m sure he’s going to figure things out, he’s just an incredible — he has incredible self-awareness, has been an incredible pitcher at all different phases of his career. We’re just not there right now and this is where we’re at.
“We have five guys we had to put ahead of him and no one understands that better than Corey,” Bloom continued. “He could not have handled it better in terms of that conversation and he’s going to keep grinding and keep working. I totally understand the question, there are a lot of things that go on during an offseason but we’re obviously focused on the guys that are here.”
Kluber signed with Boston on a one-year, $10 million deal with a club option for 2024. Assuming the Red Sox decline that option the club would be positioned to go back to the free agency well again this offseason.
Mayer rising in rankings
Between his outstanding recent performance and the graduation of several top prospects who are now in the majors, top Red Sox prospect Marcelo Mayer has continued rising through the ranks and is now regarded by some as a top-five prospect in baseball.
Mayer is currently ranked No. 3 by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel and No. 5 by MLB Pipeline on their respective top prospect lists, and he’s also ranked No. 12 by Baseball America. Though Mayer got off to a slow start, he’s been hitting the ball much better lately, batting .339 with six home runs in his last 15 games since the start of May.
Mayer isn’t the only Red Sox prospect getting attention nationally. Outfielders Miguel Bleis and Ceddanne Rafaela are ranked in the top 100 of both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America’s lists, and outfielder Roman Anthony, a top draft pick from last summer, came in at No. 49 on McDaniel’s latest list released this week.