By Matt Straub
You know your team has fallen off the face of the earth when a single victory has it and the media which covers the team wondering if the win means the team is back. The Boston Red Sox won Sunday, and now everyone is speculating about a players’ only meeting changing the team’s fortunes. We’re wondering if a solid effort by Clay Buchholz means he has turned the corner, or if the pitching coach, who arrived just hours earlier, can save the rotation.
The Red Sox are officially desperate.
Hey, there’s reason for optimism. After all, Boston sent a backup outfielder to the minors and changed the pitching coach. You would think a desperate team would make huge changes, but that doesn’t seem to be the Red Sox’ way. They have an amazing ability as an organization to blame everyone but the guys who pick the players or the players they’ve brought in to be the saviors. It’s always someone else’s fault or just a case of bad luck.
Since the Sox are keeping the bulk of the team together for now, this road trip becomes crucial for the desperate Sox. A West Coast swing can force a team to come together, or it can end with firings or a trade of some sort. I’m usually the first to rip anyone who overplays the importance of early-season games (except the simple argument of every game counting in the standings), but for the Red Sox’ psyche, this trip is huge.
So let’s look at the first leg of the West Coast portion of it, a trip to Oakland to face an even worse team.
Boston Red Sox (14-17, 4th place AL East)
at Oakland A’s (12-12, last place AL West)
Monday, 10:05 p.m.
Rick Porcello (3-2, 4.38) vs. Scott Kazmir (2-1, 2.75)
Tuesday, 10:05 p.m.
Justin Masterson (2-1, 5.18) vs. Drew Pomeranz (1-3, 5.12)
Wednesday 3:35 p.m.
Wade Miley (1-4, 6.91) vs. Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.65)
Three Red Sox Storylines
1. The only thing worse than the way the Sox have played has been their crisis management. Instead of portraying a calm demeanor like good teams do, they have exhibited several signs of panic. If they truly believed they were fine they’d have said so of late. Instead they’re firing people and making cosmetic changes in the hope it makes the fans think they’re changing things. They are a panicked team which doesn’t seem to have the guts to do much about it.
2. The $80 million man needs to set the tone. The Red Sox need to get going quickly, and there’s few better ways to do so than having your big pitcher (I can’t call anyone on this staff an ace) get it done with a big performance. One start doesn’t make or break a contract, but Boston would really like Porcello to show it something tonight.
3. This is the time of the season where the leaders have to emerge. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz spoke during that meeting in Toronto, but they must carry the load on the field to get the Red Sox back in the race.
Three A’s To Watch
1. Gray has emerged as one of the young pitchers in baseball despite lacking the attention some of the other young stars get. Oakland’s rotation for the series is still a bit up in the air, but Gray is expected to pitch the third game, meaning Boston had better get the first two if it wants to ensure a series win.
2. Edward Mujica was one of Boston’s terrible relievers early in the year and has wound up in Oakland. It will be interesting to see if he gets the call right away against his old team, or at least helps with some scouting.
3. New York fans will want to catch up with Ike Davis, who is hitting .280 this year with the A’s. The Mets are flying high right now without him, but Davis is trying to prove himself a capable player in his own right.
A trip to Seattle follows as Boston tries to get through this road trip unscathed.