Are the Boston Red Sox already out of playoff contention?

Trevor Story #10 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Trevor Story #10 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox continue to find ways to reach a new low seemingly everytime they take the field. After opening their most recent series against the Los Angeles Angels with a solid 4-0 victory, Boston would throw away the series and lose the next two games by a combined score of 18-5.

With about one month of the season in the books, Boston has been one of the most disappointing teams in the MLB. They were expected to be competing for a playoff spot in a packed American League East division. Instead, they are currently tied for last place with the lowly Baltimore Orioles, with both squads sporting records of 10-16.

Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong for the Sox to open the season has gone wrong. And while it is still just May, Boston is running the risk of burying themselves in the AL East standings to the point where they can’t recover. These next few weeks are going to be crucial in determining whether the Red Sox are actually bad, or have just gotten off to a painfully slow start.

The Boston Red Sox are running out of time to maintain their playoff aspirations

While it’s still way too early to totally give up hope for the Boston Red Sox, the team just hasn’t produced in a way to give fans hope that they are on the verge of turning things around. And typically, just when you think they are capable of piecing together back-to-back wins, they manage to throw it away in painstaking fashion like they did in their 10-5 loss to the Angels on Wednesday.

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The Boston Red Sox painful start has been a combination of both their pitching and hitting being awful at the same time. The pitching staff was expected to have their struggles, but the lineup on the other hand was not. In fact, there have been times where it seems like the pitching staff has more hope than the lineup, which is scary.

Boston’s lineup has only received somewhat consistent production from the trio of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez. Aside from them, no player who has had more than 10 at-bats is hitting above .220. To put it in perspective just how bad that is, there are 10 players on the Red Sox roster who are either playing everyday or getting consistent at-bats that are hitting below or barely above the mendoza line of a .200 batting average.

Some of the struggles were somewhat expected. Anyone who was expecting consistent production from the likes of Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Vazquez, and Bobby Dalbec were kidding themselves.

The problem is the people who were expected to actually be consistent contributors. Kike Hernandez is hitting just .189. Trevor Story, Boston’s marquee free-agent signing, has yet to hit a home run this season. Alex Verdugo started off well, but he has just five hits in his last 44 at-bats.

Of course, on most nights it doesn’t really matter how many runs the offense would score because the pitching staff is so bad. In fairness, the starting rotation has actually been quite solid. Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, and Rich Hill have given their team a chance to win each time they took the hill. Nick Pivetta, on the other hand, has been awful, but he’s going to have a chance to figure things out until Chris Sale comes back.

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The overarching issue is they don’t really have a fifth starter, which is really just a self-inflicted problem on Alex Cora’s part. Tanner Houck had the fifth spot, but he got bumped to the bullpen when Garrett Whitlock had to make a spot start when the team went to Toronto and Houck was unavailable due to him being unvaccinated. Now Whitlock holds a starting spot, despite how badly the bullpen needs him, and his inability to go longer than five innings.

That leads us to our main issue, which is the bullpen. The bullpen is bad; that was common knowledge coming into the season. However, they have somehow managed to be worse than expected.

Five of their bullpen arms currently have ERA’s higher than four, which, for bullpen pitchers, is not good. A sixth in Phillips Valdez has pitched in eight games and was recently optioned back down to Worcester because of his struggles. Cora doesn’t have guys he can trust in the late-inning roles, and on the rare occassion the team has a late lead, it’s usually thrown away by the bullpen.

The lack of a true closer has been absolutely killer for this team. Whitlock has the stuff and the gusto to be the closer, or just a late-inning specialist who can wipe out opposing lineups. But for whatever reason, Cora believes he’s better used in the starting rotation. For what it’s worth, Boston has lost all three games Whitlock has started despite his best efforts.

Who can Cora realistically turn to in this bullpen? Matt Barnes has again been awful to open the season. Kutter Crawford was good in Spring Training, but his team-high 10.38 ERA shows that hasn’t quite translated to the regular season. Hirokazu Sawamura and Jake Diekman have both been involved in throwing away games at one point or another. It’s just a mess.

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There are more questions than answers for the Boston Red Sox right now, and the questions the team has don’t have any immediate answers. With the team already 8.5 games out of first place in the AL East, their playoff aspirations are fading fast. It’s not an exaggeration to say this team only has a couple weeks left to turn this ship around and prove they aren’t as bad as they look.