Wednesday night in Miami, the Red Sox scored double-digit runs to take two of three against the Marlins. It's the most they've scored in the last six games. Actually, it was more than they had scored in the previous four games.
The win should have the Sox feeling better about things heading into an off-day in Chicago. They've got three more interleague road games, spending a weekend at Wrigley Field for a series that a lot of people will be watching.
With Theo Epstein looking down from his suite in Chicago, there will be lots of talk about what went wrong with the Sox last year, and whether or not the team will be able to hang in contention this year. Terry Francona will even join the party when he arrives Sunday night as part of the ESPN broadcast crew.
They'll be watching a team that has had trouble staying above .500 this season, a team that has spent much of the year waiting for its pitching staff to come together.
For the most part, that has happened. Since blowing a 9-1 lead in relief of Felix Doubront on April 23 the bullpen has been the best in baseball with a 2.09 ERA.
The starting rotation has shown improvement in spurts. Entering Wednesday night’s game in Miami, Red Sox starters had a 4.04 ERA in June. That’s nearly half a run lower than their season average.
We've seen Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront spin gems over the last two nights. With the pitching in place, the Sox should be winning games. So why the struggles?
For much of the past week and a half, the Sox haven't been hitting. Before last night's offensive outburst the Sox had hit just .217 as a team in the previous nine games – and just .195 in the five games leading into the final game at the art deco palace known as Marlins Park. They broke out of that in a big way to wrap up the series, and hope to keep those bats going in the friendly confines of Wrigley.
The Sox have scored the second most runs in the American League, but that's a misleading stat. As we saw again on Wednesday, this team is very good at piling on runs against weak relief pitching. But those big offensive nights have been few and far between of late. The Sox hadn't batted around in an inning for a month before the six-run eighth inning in Miami.
Why did the offense suddenly sputter? It certainly seemed as though the absences of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Cody Ross and others was starting to catch up to the team.
That stretch of low-scoring baseball, a stretch that saw the Sox lose seven out of eight games, sparked a debate that it was time to "blow up" the current roster and trade the veterans on this team for prospects.
Yet how do you rip apart a team that is still within five games of a playoff spot? A team that at some point will return an outfielder who was the runner up in last year's MVP voting and another who is a career .293 hitter?
You don't. Not yet. As long as the Sox are still within striking distance of a post-season spot, they have to try and tread water until reinforcements arrive.
That could change if they fall too far off the pace. But they haven't yet. The Sox need to try to hang in as long as they can, as long as they can stay within sight of the pack in the AL East.
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