The Red Sox (59-54) appear to be on tilt as they head into a Sunday night clash with the New York Yankees (71-39) and try to avoid a series sweep and salvage one game from their misbegotten weekend foray into the South Bronx. Misguided hope and bitter snark aside, Boston has now lost seven straight to their intradivision rivals and currently stands in third place in the AL East at 13.5 games back of the Yankees and a less-intimidating-but-still-significant 5.5 games behind the Rays for the second wild card. At this point, fans might wonder what, if anything, the Red Sox should do to climb back in these races. And while I don’t have any more answers than anyone else, and certainly fewer than anyone within the Red Sox organization, I do know this: someone’s gotta figure something out, and soon.
You kinda had a feeling, didn’t ya? A sour, sickly, sinking feeling in your stomach as you contemplated the doubleheader yesterday. “We can take two!” said the most hopeful among us. “Well, we might split,” said the more reasonable ones, clearly seeking to strike some Faustian bargain with inexorability. But in your hearts – don’t deny it – in your hearts you knew there was a better than even chance they’d get steamrolled. You knew that the check had come, the piper needed to be paid, the devil needed his due. And the Red Sox did not fail to oblige yesterday – they looked as if they’d been taken completely unawares, like the promiscuous couple in a 1980’s slasher. As for myself, I’ll be honest – when DJ LeMahieu led off game one with a homer and Sale plunked Judge with a backfoot slider, I thought the rout was on then. Turns out I was only off by three innings or so.
And let’s be clear here – umpires, though generally garbage, were not the reason why the Boston Red Sox were swept in a doubleheader yesterday. The umpires didn’t leave the ball out over the plate not once, but twice to LeMahieu in game one. The umpires didn’t give up two homers and a double to Torres in game two. The umpires didn’t come into a tie game and walk the bases loaded or give up the go-ahead single that was at once backbreaking and the difference in the game. We know the umps are trash – they’ve been trash since at least last year – and I, for one, welcome our robot overlords to call balls and strikes. But if you’re looking to point the finger somewhere, point it at the Red Sox. And maybe not the whole Red Sox, either – the lineup is literally scoring more runs than anybody in the majors. Maybe point the finger this year just at the pitching staff, how they generally haven’t been much good dating all the way back to the beginning of July, or maybe how they’ve blown 20 saves this year. Start there, if you’re into pointing fingers.
So today, Boston’s got David Price (7-4) going against J.A. Happ (8-6). Looking at the numbers, both have pitched pretty well during this season’s series, though Happ has a slightly larger sample size, and both, in their careers, have had their share of problems with either club. Given Happ’s career track record against Boston and Price’s at Yankee stadium (notwithstanding June 2nd of this year), I’d have to give the edge to New York. But there’s another reason I tip the edge to New York, and that’s because this weekend, I’m not sure that this Boston team is capable of winning in the Bronx. And allow me to be even more frank: unless and until someone figures something out, and quick, I do not now have the faith that these 2019 Boston Red Sox, late of a seven game losing streak, that being this week’s team, not last week’s, are capable of mustering the collective will to beat the 2019 New York Yankees in any capacity, be it at home, on the road, in the playoffs, or otherwise. All I ask, all any Red Sox fan can ask, I would think, is for them to try to prove us wrong.