Boston Red Sox are hanging on by slimmest of margins

Aug 17, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Alex Verdugo (left) and second baseman Christian Arroyo (39) celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 17, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Alex Verdugo (left) and second baseman Christian Arroyo (39) celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

One wonders how the Boston Red Sox might be doing if not for injuries, bullpen struggles, and a terrible offseason.

It’s hard to imagine they’d be stuck in last place in the American League East if not for a perfect storm of the above issues. Or if they had captured more of that magic they had during a scorching June.

Still, the Red Sox (60-61) are hanging around and battling for a Wild Card spot. A 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday again brought Boston five games behind the final spot. It’s a big “if” at this point, with the race getting more crowded by the day, but with a little luck, more consistency, and staying healthy, Boston could sneak into the playoffs.

Trouble is, those issues haven’t exactly been on Boston’s side in 2022.

Boston Red Sox: Balance, and looking ahead

The last two games have encapsulated Boston’s season accurately.

On Friday, the offense showed up in delivering 10 runs and 19 hits. Of course, the pitchers had a complete off day, giving up 15 runs in the loss to the Orioles.

Inconsistencies like this have plagued the Red Sox throughout the season. Often, when the starting pitchers have been dealing and the bullpen is showing signs of improvement, the offense struggles to plate runs.

And when the offense does show up, the pitchers have letdown performances, and Boston can’t string together much more than a couple of victories in a row.

Saturday’s victory proved that Boston has the ability to bounce back, thanks to some timely hitting and another standout performance by Michael Wacha.

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After turning in a gem against the New York Yankees last Sunday (7IP, 9K, 2H, 0R), Wacha gave the Red Sox a strong performance on Saturday. He pitched 5.2 innings, allowing four hits and striking out four without allowing a run.

The bullpen gave up three runs, including Garrett Whitlock in the ninth. The last couple of games have been part of the inconsistencies, as just last week it seemed things had turned around.

So, too, have injuries. Just when it seemed the Red Sox were getting healthy, the last couple of nights have turned that tide. Tommy Pham, who has three home runs and 13 RBI since being acquired by the Red Sox, left Friday’s game with back tightness.

And on Saturday, Eric Hosmer left the game early with lower back pain as well.

Keeping injuries at a minimum and good performances are a must as Boston is in midst of a nine-game stretch against A.L. East opponents.

The Red Sox finish out their series with the Orioles on Sunday and are looking to improve to 6-6 against Baltimore this season.  Toronto comes to town on Tuesday, with the Blue Jays holding a 10-3 record against the Red Sox in 2022.

Tampa Bay closes out the stretch of six home games, where the Devil Rays look to continue their spell over the Red Sox. Tampa Bay is 8-2 against Boston and have won six straight against the Red Sox.

For Boston to have any success, they will need to tighten up their trouble area (and playing like they did against the reeling Yankees will help). So, too, will the continued hot streaks of a few players.

Arroyo’s proud return for Boston Red Sox

One of the injured players making a return in the season’s second-half was Christian Arroyo. And Arroyo has been one of the more consistent players at the plate.

Arroyo was 5-6 in his first two games back in late-July and has continued his above-average hitting in August. He’s hitting .358 and was 3-5 in Saturday’s victory, coming through in the 9th-inning with an RBI double to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead.

It was the fifth time since his return that Arroyo picked up three hits in a game. Like most of the Boston lineup, power has been lacking (only one home run since coming back) but he’s getting on base.

Another player finding his stroke in August is Alex Verdugo. Verdugo is hitting .369 and has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games. He has seven multi-hit games in August but, like Arroyo, lacking in power. Though the two have combined to score 20 runs, they’ve only driven in 14.

Kiké Hernández, however, is doing his best to pick up their slack in driving in runs.

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Hernandez just appeared in his fourth game since rejoining the team and is only 4-17 at the plate. But he’s driven in at least a run in every game, including a two-run home run on Saturday. Getting him back into the swing of things should only help the Red Sox.

That is, if the three stars can get back on track.

At one point, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez were all hitting above .330. Devers was raking, though both Bogaerts and Martinez were struggling in the power department.

Now, only Bogaerts sits at .300 and the power hasn’t quite been there for all three. All have delivered timely hits at various points in the last couple of weeks but the trouble in ’22 is there hasn’t been enough of them, consistently.

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The window for riding a hot streak in ’22 is quickly closing. Aside from June, the Red Sox haven’t shown many signs in playing strong baseball over a long stretch. Still, they have won six of nine, keeping their playoff hopes just above life support. A successful week ahead will amp that up even more, and keep the heart rate of Boston fans elevated just a little longer.