By Matt Straub
As it turns out, it was the pitching coach’s fault. Everything is fine in Red Sox Nation again. That they signed a bunch of mediocre pitchers is no longer an issue. The offense’s struggles have been solved because a scapegoat has been found.
Or not. Juan Nieves is gone, but the people who have been struggling for so long are still in uniform for the Red Sox. Will the firing of the pitching coach be a turning point? Will this road trip make or break the year?
Let’s break down the first part of it, a big division series in Toronto.
Boston Red Sox (13-15, 4th place AL East)
at Toronto Blue Jays (14-15, 3rd place AL East)
Friday, 7:07 p.m.
Wade Miley (1-3, 7.15 ERA) vs. Aaron Sanchez (2-2, 4.62)
Saturday, 1:07 p.m.
Joe Kelly (1-1, 5.72) vs. Drew Hutchison (2-0, 7.47)
Sunday 1:07 p.m.
Clay Buchholz (1-4, 6.03) vs. R.A. Dickey (1-3. 4.38)
The Red Sox just lost two of three at home to Tampa and have lost 7-of-10. The joy of the early part of the year is gone, and now the Red Sox find themselves fighting to stay in the hunt in the playoff race. You can’t win a pennant in April and May, but you can lose one. Boston hasn’t yet, but needs to at least start treading water soon to try and stay close. Another bad stretch on this road trip might be enough to bury them. Toronto hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but has treaded water lately and hung around, serving as a model for the Red Sox right now. They just got two-of-three from the first-place Yankees and might be starting to feel pretty good about themselves. A series win over Boston might actually get them on a push up the standings here.
Three Red Sox Storylines
1. Apparently, Juan Nieves was the problem. The pitching coach who led the Red Sox to the world title in 2013 watched the staff struggle early in 2014 before the team gave up and got rid of everyone. This year, the Red Sox went out and signed a bunch of mediocre pitchers, all of whom have struggled at various times, and Nieves was blamed, getting fired on Thursday. Do I know for sure he’s a good pitching coach? No. Is it his fault he has dealt with bad pitchers for more than a season? No. Someone had to be blamed, and as always, it’s never ownership or their hand-picked puppet running the team.
2. The homefield advantage is gone. A 3-6 homestand which included a beating from the Yankees now sends the Red Sox on the road needing to find themselves again. Maybe some bonding and rededication on the road will come on this trip, or maybe the season will spiral further. Either way, this road trip is crucial.
3. The Red Sox are in the bottom third in the league in batting average. It’s become a clubbing team which hopes the ball goes over the wall, a dangerous way to play.
Three Blue Jays To Watch
1. Jose Bautista isn’t off to the best start to this season, but he remains one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. Give him a mistake and the ball goes real far real fast. He’s having a home run or out year, but he can get going at any time.
2. Dickey’s knuckleball is well known but still impossible to hit at times. The Red Sox had an off day to prepare, but we’ll see how well it does them when they have to face him over the weekend. It’s so different facing a knuckleball, Dickey can beat you even when he’s struggling.
3. Chris Colabello, who has one of the best back stories in all of sports, was recently called up by the Blue Jays and he’s hitting .750 since. The guy with New England in his blood will want to do well against the Red Sox.
The West Coast part of the trip comes next, with Oakland and Seattle on tap.