BOSTON — It’s usually a bad sign when the Red Sox are mentioned in conjunction with 2012. Yet that’s exactly the line being drawn as Boston prepares for Sunday’s series finale against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox, who have been dealt back-to-back losses by the Tigers, enter Sunday having lost three straight. Boston didn’t lose four games in a row all of last season, but the threat of suffering a fourth straight loss for the first time since 2012 is very real for this sputtering club.
The Red Sox lost two of their three games against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field earlier this week. Both losses were walk-offs, which, while devastating, could be looked at as Boston simply falling just short. The Red Sox, theoretically, could have walked away from Minnesota on the heels of a sweep with an extra blooper, a favorable bounce or a couple of more executed pitches.
This weekend series against the Tigers, however, represented a chance for the Red Sox to make a statement — just as they did last September, when Boston took two of three from Detroit at Fenway to really establish itself as a legitimate World Series contender. Sure, we’re not as deep into the season, but a good showing this weekend could have served as a declaration that Boston still is a force to be reckoned with despite the club’s early season mediocrity.
Let’s be clear, it’s only May and the Red Sox have shown flashes that they’ll be in contention when the dust settles. The first two games of this series, however, have been anything but encouraging. Max Scherzer and Co. blanked the Sox in Friday’s series opener, and Rick Porcello kept Boston’s offense at bay Saturday with eight innings of one-run ball. The Tigers entered as the best team in Major League Baseball record-wise, and they are living up to the billing. The Red Sox, meanwhile, look listless, especially offensively.
The Red Sox are 0-for-9 in the series with runners in scoring position, and they’ve left 10 men on base. The Sox shot themselves in the foot Friday with three double plays, and they never stood much of a chance Saturday because of both their inability to create chances and John Lackey’s inability to hold the Tigers’ potent offense in check.
“They’re pretty good,” Lackey said of Detroit’s bats. “They’re deep all the way through the lineup. They’ve got the MVP from last year (Miguel Cabrera), they’ve got a guy leading the league in hitting right now (Victor Martinez). They’re pretty good.”
This series marks the first time all season the Red Sox have lost back-to-back games started by Jon Lester and Lackey. Both pitchers typically carry even more swagger into postseason play, but seeing them falter — though Lester pitched well — against a potential playoff opponent certainly raises a red flag that work still needs to be done before the Red Sox officially can be considered “on track.”
The Red Sox won a major league-best 33 series in 2013. Saturday’s loss clinched their sixth series loss in 14 sets this season and pushed Boston to the brink of further distancing itself from last season’s championship squad by virtue of a four-game losing streak.