Hot Sox go cold in May
The Red Sox got off to their hottest start in years, nearly breaking a club record for the month of April with their 18-8 record. But the Sox have been downright atrocious in May, going 4-9 and falling from first place to third in the AL East. Over the past few weeks Fenway has turned from a field of dreams to a house of horrors as the Sox seem to find new ways to lose every night. Here’s a look at three key factors in the Sox’s slump.
The Sox starters have been pretty good, but not nearly as hot as they were in April. Still, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Ryan Dempster and even John Lackey have been turning out decent outings in May. The bullpen has been the biggest letdown though, pitching to the tune of a 4.77 ERA on the season. They’ve had to work quite a bit with Lackey and Felix Doubront posting five-inning starts and tiring out an injury depleted pen as the season continues. With Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey on the DL, Junichi Tazawa has taken the role of closer and struggled, causing the Sox to lose some close games that they would have won in April.
As a team, Sox pitchers had an ERA of 3.58 in April, but that has ballooned of late due to their 4.82 ERA in May. Baseball is a game of streaks though, and the bullpen is bound to get hot. Until then no lead is truly safe, causing the Sox to play like the sub-.500 team they have been so far this month.
John Farrell ran the Sox like an army drillmaster in Spring Training. He focused on efficiency and precision, planning everything from the running game to defensive shifts. That, above all else, was the biggest factor in how well the Sox played in April. They played like a team on a mission, but now they play like a team that is merely showing up. Base-running errors, bad throws, and missed pop-ups have been the norm for the Sox in May and have cost them a great deal in the standings.
Lack of Offense:
No one expected the Sox to come in swinging in 2013, but as a team they hit well, batting at a .271 AVG/.347 OBP/.446 SLG clip and seeing contributions from every player in the lineup. Opposing pitchers have not been kind to the Sox in May though, as the Sox have come up flat at the plate, hitting .252 as a team. The numbers are worse with runners in scoring position, as the Sox are a measly .169 over the past week in that situation. This lack of timely hitting, or hitting in general, has cost the Sox quite a bit recently.
While there are many factors contributing to the Red Sox’s slump, there are no excuses for not showing up ready to play. April was an aberration for any team, but the biggest thing for the Sox is that they need their fire back. Tuesday night’s game versus the Rays was the perfect example of everything that has gone wrong with the Sox of late. Despite an early 3-0 lead, they blew it after a series of errors, leading them to a 5-3 loss to the Rays.
If the Sox hope to win then they had better start playing better. They will face Rays’ ace David Price on Wednesday night, and after the series finale on Thursday, they will continue their road trip to the chilly Target Field in Minnesota. Hopefully the Sox can return to their April form, because if May is any indicator that their hot start was no more than a fluke, Boston is in for a very long summer.