Red Sox look like they've quit, and this sad title defense could get a lot worse before it's mercifully over

Alex Reimer
August 05, 2019 - 9:55 am
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The Red Sox’ woeful weekend in New York effectively ended their chance to offer any real championship defense, and even more embarrassingly, convince us to care about them. The passion for this grossly underachieving club should now match the intensity of a David Price meatball, served over the middle of the plate for members of the Yankees’ bench to swat all over the ballpark.

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The Yankees obliterated the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium this weekend, blasting Price for seven runs Sunday night in the series capper. The death knell came in the third inning, when the most expensive pitcher in baseball history allowed six straight hits to the Bombers’ backups, including Cameron Maybin, Mike Ford, Kyle Higashioka and Mike Tauchman. 

Price’s worst pitch of the evening was an 83 mile per hour changeup that hung over the middle of the plate to Gio Urshela, who belted it deep to left-center field. 

Up until three weeks ago, Price was the stalwart of the Sox’ staff. Then he decided to rip into Dennis Eckersley following an innocuous remark in a lengthy Boston Globe Magazine profile about their two-year-old airplane dustup, in which Price verbally assaulted the Hall of Famer for a glib remark –– “yuck!” –– he made about an ugly Eduardo Rodriguez rehab start. 

Since the resuscitation of this ridiculous one-way feud, Price is 0-3 with a 10.59 ERA. But it’s too simple to chalk up Price’s atrocious outing Sunday to any sort of intangible Eck curse. He boasts a 9.61 ERA at Yankee Stadium since signing with the Red Sox in 2016.

There is the temptation to blame Dave Dombrowski’s inexcusable inaction at the trade deadline for the Red Sox’ eight-game losing streak. Last Wednesday, Dombrowski proclaimed he would’ve been tempted to do more if his team was closer to first place, even though his refusal to replace Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly in the bullpen was one of the biggest reasons for the Red Sox’ shortcomings. It must have been a deflating message to hear.

But instead of trying to prove Dombrowski wrong, the Red Sox have shown he was right to not invest in them. Their two supposed aces, who are on the books for $241 million, allowed 15 runs to the Yankees over the weekend. Boston is 17-27 when Chris Sale and Price take the hill this year.

Sale’s performance Saturday was downright unprofessional, and a sign this season is unraveling before our very eyes. After getting squeezed on an obvious strike three call to Urshela, the slumping left-hander allowed six of the next seven Yankees to reach base, before getting yanked from the game and ejected on his way out. 

After the game, Sale and skipper Alex Cora, who was also tossed from the contest, bemoaned home plate umpire Mike Easterbrook’s inconsistent strike zone. “Nothing is going to happen to him, I’m sure. He’ll be out there (in Game 2) at third base, probably be at home plate again,” Sale whined to reporters. “I don’t want to get too caught up in the politics of this, but there’s got to be something. ‘AC’ doesn’t do his job for long enough, he’s gone. If I don’t do my job for long enough, I’m gone. … Got to find something. Nothing really holding it down.”

While Sale is correct about the troubling lack of accountability for incompetent umpires across the league, the same thing applies for a seemingly cooked pitcher in his 30s who just inked a nine-figure contract extension. The Red Sox are due to pay Sale $145 million through 2025, whether he can right himself or not.

The failure to acquire Shane Greene or Daniel Hudson does not explain this season-ending eight-game losing streak, which started last Sunday night, when the Yankees battered Sale at Fenway Park. The $240 million Sox have been outscored 58-32 during this putrid stretch. Sergio Romo is not worth 26 runs.

In an interview Saturday with Ken Rosenthal, Mookie Betts equivocated when asked whether management’s conservative deadline approach bothered the players on this team. His silence was deafening. But the best offense in baseball also went just 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position against New York. Dombrowski is not to blame for every lazy Betts fly out. 

So here the Red Sox are. They return to Fenway to play the lowly Royals and mediocre Angels, whom they’re now closer to than the wild card-leading Indians and Rays. Red Sox starting pitchers make more money –– $88 million –– than Tampa Bay’s entire club.

Maybe the Red Sox will bash their way to some victories at Fenway, where they’ve surprisingly struggled all summer long. Perhaps the wild card gap will close back to three or four games. But this team just played the Rays and Yankees 14 straight times, and blew their opportunity to make any real noise. Boston is now 16 games behind the Yankees in the division in the loss column, suffering its longest losing streak since the moribund 2014 campaign. 

This is the nadir of a season full of lows. The Red Sox showed us this weekend how bad this thing could actually get. 

Related: David Price turns in horrific performance against Yankees