Red Sox’ Offense Suffers First Major Hiccup of 2013, Meaning Resiliency Will Be Tested

Pedro Ciriaco;   J.P. ArencibiaJohn Lackey‘s injury is the big news, but the Red Sox actually played a game on Saturday.

Well, they were supposed to, although it didn’t look like the offense was aware.

The Red Sox entered Saturday’s game on the heels of a decent performance on Friday night. The Sox came away from the series opener with a victory, and they banged out 12 hits in the process, but Boston failed to put the game out of reach on multiple occasions.

Still, to criticize the Red Sox’ offense on Friday required a little bit of nitpicking. Criticizing the unit on Saturday only required common sense.

The Sox had just one hit until the ninth inning, and it was Jacoby Ellsbury‘s double to lead off the ballgame. Lackey was fantastic in his 4 1/3 innings before going down with the injury, and Alfredo Aceves yielded mixed results in his 3 2/3 innings, but the Red Sox never really stood a chance because they were unable to sustain a threat. Boston produced just five baserunners all game, and three came within the first three innings.

While Friday wasn’t perfect, it was a far better effort than Saturday’s, which represents Boston’s first real offensive hiccup 0f 2013.

The Red Sox entered Saturday’s game with a major-league best .397 on-base percentage, and an AL-best 47 hits and 19 walks. They recorded a double-digit hit total in three of their first four games. Yet J.A. Happ and three Toronto relievers were in control throughout Saturday’s tilt, striking out 11 hitters while tossing up a goose egg in the runs column.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the Red Sox’ offensive struggles was the ineffectiveness of the middle of the order. Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks and Jonny Gomes figure to be three of Boston’s biggest power threats — Napoli and Middlebrooks went deep on Friday — but they were a combined 0-for-10 with five strikeouts on Saturday. Napoli is now hitting .130 through the first five games, while Middlebrooks and Gomes are hitting .200 and .273, respectively.

Even Jackie Bradley Jr., who tore the cover off the ball throughout spring training and drew praise early on, suddenly looks human. He’s now batting .176 (3-for-17) after an 0-for-3, two-strikeout performance on Saturday.

This is no reason to panic. Every team has an off-game, and the Red Sox’ other four games prove that they’re capable of stringing hits together. Plus, David Ortiz and Stephen Drew should make the lineup even more dynamic upon their respective returns. It’ll be interesting, though, to see how the Red Sox rebound from their first real offensive setback.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

Click here to read about John Lackey’s injury >>

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