Something is missing from this edition of the Red Sox

Rob Bradford
June 07, 2019 - 11:14 pm

Kansas City didn't cure what ailed the Red Sox, after all.

The hope for Alex Cora and Co. upon returning to Fenway Park with their four-game win streak in hand was things were finally settling back into 2018 form. But then Friday night's 5-1 loss to the Rays came along and all the same reminders popped up, drilling home the fact that these are the 2019 Red Sox. (For a complete recap of the Red Sox' loss, click here.)

The Sox are just one game over .500 (14-13) at Fenway Park and a very uncomfortable 13-19 against teams with records of better than .500. For a club that was 57-24 at home a year ago, and 41-33 vs. teams with winning records it paints the picture.

Then there is the most obvious alteration of them all -- the inability of these Red Sox to do what those Red Sox did so well, hit when it counts the most.

As has been the case more times than Cora would care to remember, the Red Sox squandered their chance to to get back into this game after Tampa Bay starter Yonny Chirinos had no-hit them through the first five innings. There was the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with one out, residing four runs down, only to watch both Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers go down on strikes.

It felt like a microcosm of what has been ailing the Red Sox. They are now two for their last 20 with the bases loaded since May 17.

"We’re just not using the whole field, especially with two strikes. I think our two-strike hitting is way down," said Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers. "We’ve just got to use the whole field and not try to do too much in those situations. You try to do too much and you come off the pitch and you fall behind and it’s tough in this league whenever this happens."

Hyers is on point in his assessment. The Sox were the best two-strike team in the majors last season, hitting .200. Their average in such situations has now dropped to .178.

"I mean we haven’t been good in a while with men in scoring position," Cora said. "We haven’t been good with bases loaded in the last month. But obviously, his stuff was good. Throwing 96 (mph), 97 in the last inning but we had a chance there with the bases loaded and didn’t put the ball in play. And they did the opposite. So we’ve got to keep getting better. That’s what I’ve been saying about the offense. There are certain things that we haven’t done this season. I know the numbers look great and very similar to last year but it doesn’t feel the same way."

It has been a problem, particularly against good teams. During their stretch vs. Houston, Cleveland and the Yankees the Red Sox' OPS with runners in scoring position was just .672, coming away with a single multi-run homer in the nine games. The beat went on Friday night, with the Sox finishing 1-for-7 in such scenarios.

Not good.

"Give credit to (Chirinos)," Hyers noted. "He made some quality pitches when he needed to. Sometimes when we had some pitches to hit, we just didn’t put them in play like we needed to. I don’t think we’ve found anything different. I think it’s more, just using the whole field like we did last year, and a few guys trying to do too much at the plate. That’s when you get a little rotational and come off of some balls that you usually square up."

Rick Porcello took the loss, giving up four runs over six innings. It was the eighth time in his last nine starts he went at least six frames.

Josh Smith is the scheduled starter for Game 1 of the teams' doubleheader Saturday.