We often tend to look at baseball as a game rooted in pretty complex decisions.
There are decisions to be made before every pitch. Sometimes those decisions are as simple as whether or not to throw a fastball or breaking ball. Other times, the game evolves into an ultimate chess match with one decision making all the difference in the world.
But really, baseball, as Crash Davis will tell you, is a simple game. You hit. You pitch. You catch.
And to put it simply, the Red Sox are playing some very poor baseball right now.
That won't be the first time that anyone has said such, but Thursday night's loss to the Indians was the latest smack-in-the-face reminder that Boston is simply not a good baseball team, at least not right now.
The talent is there, no doubt, but that declaration is based solely on past performances right now. The club has underperformed all season, with some of the greatest faults being exposed in this most recent tailspin.
Another glaring example of this was offerd up by Felix Doubront in the series opener. Pitching, at it's foundation is also pretty simple. You need to establish fastball command, and from there you're able to work off of your secondary stuff.
For 4 1/3 innings in Cleveland, Doubront was doing just that, taking full advantage of the potentially devastating stuff he features. He was establishing the fastball early in the count, and then coming back with the breaking stuff. Take a look at the lefty's second time through the Cleveland order. He was fearless, throwing breaking balls in any count, knowing full well that he had the fastball to fall back on.
In the fifth, that all left him. The fastball command was nowhere to be found. Gone as well was the control of his secondary pitches. The end result was a 32-pitch inning, an inning in which the Indians wrestled the lead away from Doubront and the Sox. That was a lead they'd never relinquish.
Doubront, who has now thrown 122 2/3 innings this season, had never thrown more than 25 innings at the big league level in a single season before 2012. To his credit, Doubront isn't using that as an excuse for another fifth-inning meltdown, as he did the same thing last week against the Twins.
"No, not at all," Doubront told reporters after the game when asked whether or not he was starting to hit the wall because of that drastic increase in workload.
Doubront's manager, Bobby Valentine, was a little more philosophical about his team's loss, in a way that once again left the real culprits for this loss and so many this season — the players — off the hook.
"It's a loss and it's a tough one," Valentine said moments after his team's third straight loss. "I just thought that they hit it where we weren't and we hit it where they were."
Ironically, Valentine's simple explanation doesn't tell the story. Sure, the reason for the Sox' struggles is simple enough, but it has nothing to do with bad luck, as Valentine implied. Rather, it has to do with a lack of focus and execution, as well as a tendency to shy away from the game's biggest and most important moments.
When a pitcher struggles with command like Doubront did in the fifth inning, the ball isn't going to find the gloves of the guys wearing the road greys.
Conversely, the ball didn't just find a Cleveland glove when Pedro Ciriaco made a horrendous decision to run to third on a ground ball hit in front of him to shortstop in the seventh inning. The young infielder broke the cardinal sin of base running, trying to advance with a ball hit in front of him. The end result was a double play, crushing a potential rally.
When the Red Sox walk just once against Ubaldo Jimenez, a pitcher who leads the league in walks, it's no wonder that when they put the ball in play, it finds a glove or two.
Find a glove or two, the ball did off of the Boston bats. All night long, the club desperately needed a hit when it mattered most. Alas, the Sox went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, stranding seven runners on base.
Add it all up, and it's another loss.
It's just not good enough right now for the Red Sox. At least that's the simple way of looking at things. With time running out and the club slip-sliding down the standings, that's all that really matters at this point.