As a mostly empty Fenway looked on, the Red Sox' backups played out the last two innings of a 9-2 loss to the Rays Thursday night, falling to 1-7 over their last 8 games, and 3-12 in September.
The scene was the result of a game that perfectly exhibited the problems that have plagued the Red Sox and given the Rays a very real chance to make the playoffs at the Red Sox' expense. A questionable starting pitcher, terrible relief out of the pen, and an offense that's prone to long streaks of mediocrity.
Really, Kyle Weiland doesn't deserve much blame for tonight. The young righty recorded seven straight outs to start the game before giving up a double off the wall to John Jaso in the third. He followed it up with a second out, pitched around Desmond Jennings likely knowing that B.J. Upton was up next, and got Upton to hit a weak grounder.
Unfortunately, the broken bat that came with the ball proved Weiland's undoing. Marco Scutaro was forced to hop over the bat to dodge the shard of wood headed in his direction, and saw the ball roll through right at the same time. It was a play nobody could really be expected to make, and Scutaro is in no way to blame, but the run scored all the same, and four pitches later, the Sox really felt the sting. Evan Longoria got a fastball up in the zone, and knocked a high fly ball into the bullpen for a three-run shot.
The Sox threatened to strike back in the bottom half of the third, loading the bases with one out, but could only push one run across on a ground out from Adrian Gonzalez. With Weiland being pulled from the game in the fourth, the Red Sox were just a few terrible relief outings by Franklin Morales and Matt Albers away from the absolute blowout this ended up being.
Three For The Road
But For A Broken Bat
Imagine had that ground ball been an out? The inning ends, Longoria hits a leadoff homer in the fourth, but Weiland can keep pitching with just one earned run to his name. Maybe things don't get so out of hand so quickly, and the Sox maybe don't go away quite so easily. Sometimes one broken bat is all it takes to completely change a game.
The good news is that Josh Beckett is back tomorrow to give a hand to a rotation in dire need of some help. The bad news is that he's up against James Shields, and games where he's returned from injuries have been a bit tough for Josh Beckett. Hopefully the lineup is in a mood to make up for Thursday's mediocrity.
It's becoming more and more apparent that not only is Kevin Youkilis hurting badly, but that he's not really able to contribute as well as usual. The Red Sox may have to just bite the bullet and accept that Youkilis can't play a full schedule for the rest of September and--should they make it--October. It's certainly crunch time right now, but the fact is that he's not really helping them win games this way.
Red Sox MVP -- Once Again, Nobody
David Ortiz went 2-for-2, but it was another bad day for the Sox, so it's another MVP-free game.
Up Next -- Friday, 7:10 p.m. | Josh Beckett (12-5, 2.49 ERA) vs. James Shields (15-10, 2.70 ERA)
It's a battle of aces in a game that's nearly a must-win for the Red Sox if they hope to manage a split. Beckett has been absolutely dominant against the Rays so far this year, but as mentioned earlier, he's had difficulties coming back from layoffs, be they injury-related or otherwise.