Bradford: The Red Sox have been given their recipe for disaster

Rob Bradford
August 26, 2018 - 7:32 pm

USA Today Sports

The reality for the Red Sox is that they have the current state of baseball in their back pocket. In other words, this downturn turn is going to be met with an off day followed by series against two teams (Miami, White Sox) who are a combined 54 games under .500.

That has been the beauty of baseball this season.

There are also obvious answers for Alex Cora’s team, starting with Eduardo Rodriguez’s return (he makes what figures to be his last rehab start Monday), and followed up by the impending return of Chris Sale, Steven Wright, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez. Go down the list of these players and it’s not difficult to find ways each can directly impact an issue hovering over this Red Sox team that has now lost six of its last eight.

Sale wouldn’t leave the Red Sox holding their breath until David Price starts again.

Wright offers an option out the bullpen that might make Cora be able to pull he trigger on flailing starters a bit earlier.

Devers could add some punch to an offense that didn’t hit a home run in any of their three games in St. Petersburg.

And Christian Vazquez might allow Cora to be a bit more discerning in running out Sandy Leon, who is now hitting .118 since the All-Star break.

Once the Red Sox walked out of Tropicana Field Sunday, having to live with being swept by the Rays, they carried a 6 1/2-game lead over the Yankees. Considering who Boston plays and how they’ve played for the vast majority of the season that should be enough.

But what this whole mess has offered the Red Sox is a reminder of how it’s done. And by “it” we, of course, mean historic collapses.

It's also too easy to immediately reference 2011 in this regard. OK. This weekend should, however, did undoubtedly some uneasy parallels.

You can talk all the live, long day about chicken, beer and such. Yet what really topped off the blame power rankings for that 7-20 September was the collapse of the Red Sox’ starting pitcher. Just three times that month did their starters manage to go more than six innings, totaling a combined 7.08 ERA.

Subsequently, the Red Sox relievers were exposed, finishing that month a major-league-leading 115 1/3 innings and 4.45 ERA. Sound familiar?

During these three games, the Red Sox starters finished with a 12.34 ERA and .418 batting average against, having managed just 11 2/3 innings.

Remember Erik Bedard, the starter the Red Sox got at the non-waiver trade deadline in 2011 to firm up the rotation? It kind of along the lines of the impetus for the Nathan Eovaldi transaction. Well, compared to what Eovaldi has delivered of late, Bedard — who averaged less than five innings per start with the Sox — looks like a bargain.

Perhaps Eovaldi turns things around or becomes a legitimate answer in the Red Sox’ bullpen. But right now he isn’t reliable, as has been evident by his last four starts. During that stretch, the righty has a 7.41 ERA and .412 batting average against, turning in a total of just 17 innings.

To make matters worse that some of the relievers Dave Dombrowski was banking on when not making a move on July 31 have already seen a downturn. Matt Barnes has now allowed runs in five of his last eight outings, with Heath Hembree (4 or his last 6) and Tyler Thornburg (2 or his last 3) also not offering much certainty.

A move or two would be nice. But clearly, the Red Sox’ position in the waiver order (last) is not helping matters, which was the case in both the situations involving Sergio Romo and Fernando Rodney.

Sometimes the strategy of riding out who got you there works, but not always. In case you forget, the Conor Jackson acquisition in 2011 really wasn’t enough. Meanwhile, after an 11-17 August last season the Astros reversed course thanks to the last-minute Justin Verlander trade. And what led to that horrific August in Houston? A group of starting pitchers who totaled a 4.83 ERA for the month (averaging 5 2/3 innings per start) prior to Verlander’s arrival.

There are other issues flipping the narrative for this Red Sox team. Mookie Betts is hitting just .194 (6-for-31) over his last eight games, while one Dombrowski’s solutions to the stretch drive, Ian Kinsler, has managed just a .179 batting average since his return from the disabled list.

All of it is a smack-in-the-face reminder of how this can all go wrong. For that, they can thank a nice weekend stay in Florida.

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