BOSTON — A weekend that started with jubilation for the Red Sox ended with repeated doses of agony.
The Red Sox dropped three straight to the Milwaukee Brewers following Friday’s World Series ring ceremony at Fenway Park. The unexpected sweep shouldn’t cause any hysteria in Boston, but lackluster play simply won’t cut it at a time when the Red Sox’s margin for error is so thin because of various ailments.
“We’ve had a difficult time bunching some hits together,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Sunday’s 4-0 loss. “They scattered (the nine hits) that we got today. We did create a couple of opportunities but just the ability to build an inning (wasn’t there).”
The Red Sox left nine men on base and went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position Sunday. It wasn’t the first time Boston struggled to produce with runners on base this season, and things might only get tougher now that the Red Sox will be without third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list before Sunday’s game with a strained right calf.
“Right now, because of some guys that are missing in our lineup, our margin of error becomes maybe a little bit more fine right now,” Farrell said. “(That’s) not an excuse. That’s just where we are right now.”
Middlebrooks joins Shane Victorino, who is on the DL with a hamstring strain. Mike Carp (back) and David Ortiz (calf) also have dealt with ailments — albeit minor — and Grady Sizemore still is being closely monitored while he continues his comeback. In other words, Farrell already has been forced to shuffle his lineup card several times in Boston’s first six regular-season games, leaving the Red Sox very little wiggle room when it comes to overcoming mistakes.
And mistakes were aplenty against the Brewers. Edward Mujica imploded in the ninth inning Friday, Clay Buchholz was knocked around Saturday and the Red Sox coupled their offensive inconsistency with shoddy defense in Sunday’s series finale. The Red Sox know they must play better, even if it requires someone coming off the bench and providing a spark in someone else’s absence.
“We have to make the most out of what we have at the time. Injuries are unpredictable,” Farrell said. “We haven’t been able to get into a rhythm with our normal starting lineup, but that’s the game. We feel like we’ve got quality depth to replace guys. The next guy up’s got an opportunity in front of him to do a job and we’ve got to make the most of the situation at hand.”
The Red Sox won’t use injuries as an excuse, and they shouldn’t. The Brewers bested them for three straight games at Fenway Park for reasons beyond health. But without a full complement of players — and thus a certain rhythm to each day’s lineup card — every single mistake becomes even more costly.
The Red Sox say they have turned the page on 2013. Now, it’s time for Boston to turn the page on its first ugly series of 2014.