Boston Red Sox: Searching for positivity amidst recent struggles

Boston Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec (29) Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec (29) Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

Much can be said in the negative column about the Boston Red Sox in the last week or so. But hey, at least Aaron Judge went 0-5 with three strikeouts against them on Friday night.

Tough outings have plagued the Red Sox since the calendar flipped to July. Despair is knocking on the door, ready to barge in with ferocity if Boston can’t align the stars in their favor once again.

Despite all the negatives floating in the air — and losing 8 of their last 11 contests — there are positives to take away from these disappointing results. And yes, that involves much more than Judge, who strikes fear simply by stepping into the batter’s box, going without a hit.

Boston Red Sox rotation: Nick Pivetta stands alone

Through much of the 1st-half of the 2022 season, the Boston Red Sox starting rotation was a solid anchor and a pleasant surprise. Lately, however, players have spent more time in medical offices than toeing the rubber.

This earlier strength has turned into a question mark, with Nick Pivetta playing a game of sole survivor among the rotation. And even Pivetta saw a recent hot streak tempered in a 8-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Pivetta gave up seven runs, all earned, in the loss. Two bad innings did him in, allowing all seven runs in the first and sixth innings with basically a clean sheet in between.

In the last week, Rich Hill and Michael Wacha have joined Nathan Eovaldi on the injured list. While these veteran starters are out, it has provided the opportunity for the young arms of Boston to show their stuff.

Brayan Bello had somewhat of a forgettable debut. Going up against the Rays is no easy feat and Bello left with a four-inning performance, allowing four runs and six hits. He also walked three and struck out two. This wasn’t a quick call-up for the young pitcher, who is tentatively scheduled to pitch two more times (7/11 @ Tampa Bay, 7/16 @ Yankees) before the All-Star break.

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Connor Seabold is another pitcher fans were excited to see in the big-leagues this season. Seabold has made three starts, totaling 11.1 innings. On the plus side, Seabold has 13 strikeouts, but his ERA is near 12.00, and he could clearly use some more experience in Triple-A.

Josh Winckowski had been the most consistent of these younger pitchers, until he ran into the Yankees on Thursday. Even then, Winckowski has just one bad inning in the 6-5 loss which saw him give up five runs in the third inning. But in his previous four outings, Winckowski had allowed only five earned runs over 23 innings.

A fourth-pitcher who struggled in multiple roles earlier this season is rookie Kutter Crawford. Crawford has been a bright spot every now and then in the season’s first few months, and he happens to be coming off one of his best performances in ’22 against the Rays earlier this week. He will look to carry that momentum when he’s handed the ball on Saturday against the Yankees.

Despite the struggles of these young arms, they are gaining valuable experience and doing so against good teams. While it would have been nice to ease them into better match-ups, throwing them in the thick of things will be better in the long run. It would be helpful, too, if they got a bit more support from the offense.

Key hit eluding Boston Red Sox

Individually, hits haven’t been a huge issue for the Red Sox. It’s the actual part of stringing together hits in key situations that have eluded Boston.

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Opportunities throughout the week have presented themselves and Boston simply isn’t taking advantage. The Red Sox had their chances in Thursday’s close loss and even more on Friday to keep things interesting in what ultimately was a 12-5 loss.

The Red Sox had 13 hits in their most recent loss, but were 2-9 with runners in scoring position, and left 12 men on base in the process. The numbers have been similar in Boston’s four-game losing streak, with the team going 6-35 (.171) with runners in scoring position.

A positive in this aspect is Rafael Devers, who was a one-man wrecking crew against the Yankees on Thursday. Devers, selected as an All-Star starter on Friday, had two home runs and drove in all five runs in the loss.

Devers is hitting .327 with 19 home runs and 51 RBI on the season, but he is currently dealing with a back injury. This kept Devers out of two games earlier this week and he left Friday’s game early. He will also sit out Saturday night’s game against the Yankees.

The negatives outweigh the positives but the biggest takeaway is that, despite the struggles, the Red Sox are still in the thick of the Wild Card race. Barring an epic meltdown by the Yankees, it might be safe for teams in the AL East to wave the white flag and concentrate on just getting to the playoffs.

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A little under half a season remains, and Boston is one-half game behind the Rays for second-place in the East and the top Wild Card spot entering Saturday’s slate of games. That’s the important thing to pay attention to. If the key hits return, players get healthy, and the young arms settle in, it will definitely be a post All-Star break worth paying attention to for the Boston Red Sox.