Red Sox’ Offense Needs to Be More Opportunistic, Especially During Big Tests Against Elite Teams

Jacoby EllsburyIf this series truly is a test, the Red Sox need to study more.

The Rangers have had all the fun in the first two games of this three-game set, pounding out 28 hits to Boston’s 13 and outscoring the Red Sox 13-1. Overall, Texas has outplayed Boston in every facet of the game, and it appears as if the high-riding Red Sox are being chopped down to size.

It isn’t time to panic, obviously. Two games hardly make a season, especially games in May. For anyone who was looking for the Red Sox to make a statement against a top-notch opponent on the road, though, the back-to-back losses are a bit discouraging.

What’s been most discouraging is the Red Sox’ inability to generate offense. They went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and left nine men on base. They also had at least one baserunner in every inning except for the first and the ninth, yet they only came away with one run — which stands as their only run through 18 innings of baseball at the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

In Boston’s defense, the Rangers’ pitching staff is pretty damn good, and the two starters they’ve faced — Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando — are legitimate major league starters. That’s something Red Sox manager John Farrell was quick to point out following Saturday’s game.

“They have a very good pitching staff,” Farrell told reporters in Texas. “[On Friday], after the long travel, I thought we were a little bit flat. Today, I thought we swung the bats much better. We had a number of hard-hit balls that didn’t fall in and they made some good plays defensively in the outfield.

“We fully expected this to be a well-pitched series.”

Things certainly won’t get any easier on Sunday when the Red Sox take their cuts against Yu Darvish, who has been one of the nastiest pitchers in baseball so far this season.

Regardless of the opposing pitcher, though, the Red Sox’ offense isn’t without fault. The struggles at the plate extend back beyond Friday — when Holland shut down Boston for eight innings — and into Thursday. The Sox came away from Thursday’s game with a 3-1 victory, but they consistently let the Blue Jays hang around in that contest. The Sox were issued 10 free passes and had plenty of opportunities to pull away, yet they finished with 12 men left on base and went just 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Against good teams like the Rangers, the Red Sox need to be more opportunistic, and the current series is proving that. The Sox haven’t failed the big test yet, but the progress report for this series isn’t one you’d immediately slap up on the refrigerator.

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

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