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Red Sox Notebook: Injuries, Slumping Sluggers, And The Terrible John Lackey

In the inaugural edition of the Red Sox Notebook, we look at an up-and-down National League road trip plagued by injuries and offensive slumps.

The Sox were unable to do much more against the Philadelphia Phillies than against the Pittsburgh Pirates, dropping their first two games while getting shut down by Cliff Lee and Vance Worley. Amazingly enough, though, they managed to salvage a winning record on the road trip despite a 2-4 start by sweeping the Houston Astros.

Taken as a whole, the Red Sox' 5-6 record since dropping two games to the Padres is not pretty. But considering the circumstances of the road trip, coming out ahead over the course of it is a victory, however small.

Big Sluggers Slumping

The major concern for Terry Francona over the NL road trip was how to keep both David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez hot. But the mission may have been doomed from the start. Ortiz entered the road trip having gone 0-for-8 in the last two games against the Padres, and finished it mired in an 0-for-19 slump.

Adrian Gonzalez' slump hasn't been quite as pronounced, but between the road trip and the Sox' first game against the Blue Jays, the MVP candidate has only gone 11-for-41, far off his usual torrid pace. The situation has been exacerbated by an unusually bad performance in the clutch, with Gonzalez having hit into more than his fair share of double plays in the last few games.

Both Ortiz and Gonzalez doubled in Monday's game, with Ortiz' night looking a little bit better on the whole. It's hard to imagine either player is ready to go away, however. The only question is how well the Sox can keep up with the Yankees and Rays while their top two bats are struggling.

Injuries Slow To Heal

So far the Sox' injuries this year haven't approached the season-compromising severity of last year, when the team lost Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury for the year. They have, however, seemingly been keeping pace in frequency, and so far they've been slow to heal.

First there's Carl Crawford, whose hamstring sidelined him in mid-June. Despite a positive workout on Monday, Terry Francona indicated to the media that it wasn't a sure thing that the left fielder would be activated before the All-Star break.

The same is true for Clay Buchholz. Originally scheduled to start Monday against the Blue Jays (which likely would have led to a Red Sox win, so bad was John Lackey), Clay Buchholz is now on the way to see back specialist Craig Brigham in North Carolina, according to WEEI's Alex Speier. Terry Francona has cautioned that the visit is more about reassurance than it is diagnostic, but it's still one more week with the Sox down one of their top starting arms.

Rotation Comes Into Clarity

Andrew Miller is viable, Josh Beckett is still good, and John Lackey is anything but.

Miller followed up his successful debut against the Padres with two solid starts against the Pirates and Astros. While he hasn't exactly been facing offensive dynamos, Miller's been showing some strong stuff despite running into occasional bouts of wildness. He won't maintain his 3.06 ERA long-term, but he seems likely to survive as a solid back-end option if nothing else, which is something the Sox are in need of thanks to...

John Lackey, who may have finally crossed the line in allowing seven earned runs in less than three innings Monday. Lackey had managed to put some ambiguity into things by following up his poor start against the padres by shutting down the Phillies for most of eight innings. His 5.28 ERA in June wasn't pretty, but it was enough of an improvement over his pre-DL performance that it at least left some hope alive that Lackey could find some success in the second half. But Monday's game just offers too much symbolism. The Red Sox had just rattled off a four game win streak, and even scored seven runs against Brandon Morrow and the Jays. But John Lackey was bad enough to ruin even the best efforts of a suddenly hot Sox team. It's hard to imagine he's got much leeway left, if he hasn't already used it all up.

And then there's Josh Beckett, who scared everyone by running into trouble in his start against Philadelphia, and then proved it was just rust after a long sickness-related layoff by striking out 11 Astros in eight dominant innings on Sunday. Combined with Lester, Miller, and a healthy Clay Buchholz, the Sox have at least four positions set it stone. They just have to figure out that fifth.

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