The Red Sox are in full-on tailspin mode as they head into Seattle for a three-game set against the Mariners.
Swept by the Angels, and then swept dramatically by the Athletics (who scored 33 runs to Boston's 5 in the series) the Sox are at an all-season low, and possibly playing as poorly as any Red Sox team ever has. It's gotten so bad that, for the first time in years, the Red Sox will enter a late-season series against the Seattle Mariners...as underdogs. At 62-73, the Sox are three games behind the Mariners, who stand at 65-70.
By now, the question is whether it would be better to maintain some face by avoiding an 0-for-9 West Coast trip, or to drop further, and in the process move up the draft order. They are just three games away from the #6 pick.
Boston Red Sox (62-73) vs. Seattle Mariners (65-70)
Monday, September 3, 4:10 p.m. EST
Clay Buchholz (11-4, 4.50 ERA) vs. Jason Vargas (13-9, 3.90 ERA)
After another shaky start against the Los Angeles Angels, the concern over Clay Buchholz is beginning to grow greater. There are no excuses to be had against the Mariners. A weak lineup in a big park. If Buchholz can't put it all together again against the Mariners, it's time to start having real concerns over whether or not he's the pitcher he was during the last couple months, or the first couple.
Jason Vargas will also be happy with his circumstance. The fly ball pitcher allowed five homers in two games in Chicago and Minnesota, but back in Safeco he's in his element, against a weaker lineup to boot.
Tuesday, September 4, 10:10 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (8-11, 5.01 ERA) vs. Blake Beavan (9-8, 4.95 ERA)
Lester, too, had a bad time against the Angels, but managed to pull his outing back as the night went on to the point where it was at least not egregiously bad. At least in Lester's case it was the first bad outing, but he too will have no excuse not to recover against the Mariners. In a way, it's a lose-lose. Either he did at most what was expected, or he fails.
Blake Beavan's numbers are as bad as a Red Sox starter's, but he's been more the type to have mediocre games consistently than bad games occasionally. This seems to be true even against weak-hitting teams like Minnesota and Tampa Bay, which means that a Boston lineup which just can't seem to score could find in him the perfect fit.
Wednesday, September 5, 10:10 p.m. EST
Aaron Cook (3-8, 5.35 ERA) vs. Kevin Millwood (4-12, 4.38 ERA)
Aaron Cook has gone from inexplicably effective, to mediocre, to untenable. The ground balls have fled him, and when that happens, it doesn't matter how weak the opposing lineup may be--when Cook is up in the zone, minor leaguers can take him deep. Even in Safeco.
One wonders how much the Sox regret letting Kevin Millwood loose right now. He's not been excellent over the past two seasons, but he's been perfectly serviceable since the Sox released him from his minor league deal, and if there's one thing the Sox haven't had for the last 12 months, it's acceptable pitching. He's doing no better than the likes of Cook in the last month, however, so we might be looking at a pretty sad shootout come Wednesday.