The ship is taking on water down in Arlington, with the lead in the American League East a memory and the threat of a five-game losing streak and the first three-game sweep of 2009 staring them in the face tonight against the Rangers. It's up to Clay Buchholz to come to the rescue in his second start of the season.
Rangers 3-1, FINAL: 1-5 on the road trip, five losses in a row, two games behind the Yankees in the AL East. Let the Adam LaRoche Era begin!
End 8th, Rangers 3-1: Drew, Kotsay and Varitek in the ninth. Do you believe in miracles? No!
Mid 8th, Rangers 3-1: So much for that. Groundout, groundout strikeout. The Red Sox have 13 runs in six games since the All-Star break. "I think we’re a good offensive club having a horrific month," Theo Epstein said before the game. So true.
End 7th, Rangers 3-1: If it's going to happen tonight, it's probably going to be right here. Youkilis, Ortiz and Bay coming up.
Mid 7th, Rangers 3-1: The Red Sox are running out of outs. A leadoff single by Jason Varitek goes by the boards. Only six outs left to avoid the first three-game sweep of 2009 and a five-game losing streak.
End 6th, Rangers 3-1: As we've said all week, the problem is not the pitching. Daniel Bard continues to evolve as a major leaguer before our eyes, striking out two in the sixth to keep the Sox within striking distance.
Mid 6th, Rangers 3-1: Mark Kotsay is dead man walking. Actually, he's dead man striking out. With Jason Bay on second with one out, Drew and Kotsay both go down swinging. Kotsay is 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
End 5th, Rangers 3-1: The Rangers have traded in the home run swings for happy feet, stealing two more bases in the fifth for five overall. But all that running led to a rare out, with Nelson Cruz running into a ground ball by David Murphy between second and third for an automatic out. You might see that once a year.
9:55 p.m.: Buchholz is done after 90 pitches in four innings. Manny Delcarmen is on to pick up the pieces.
Mid 5th, Rangers 3-1: Dustin Pedroia picks up his second single of the night with two outs, but that is the extent of the offense in the fifth, as Dustin Nippert has flummoxed the Sox in a spot start. The Red Sox cannot get back to Fenway fast enough. Question is, how friendly will it be Friday night when they take the field?
End 4th, Rangers 3-1: Game over? The Rangers have had the leadoff man on base in 3 of 4 innings. What a novel concept! The pressure on Clay Buchholz finally leads to a break, as Nelson Cruz and David Murphy make it second and third with nobody out and both score, the latter on an Elvis Andrus squeeze bunt, of all things. Buchholz stops the bleeding there, but now the pressure goes back to the offense, and that's a very bad sign these days.
Mid 4th, 1-1: While we bid our final adieu to Julio Lugo, who was traded to St. Louis this afternoon, we are reminded that Lugo's four-year, $36 million contract in the winter of 2006 wasn't the worst free agent signing of that offseason. How is J.D. Drew's five-year, $70 million deal looking right now? (And let's not even talk about Dice-K). Drew is a mind-numbing 3-for-45 since July 4. Drew's average has plummeted 30 points to .235 and he has 7 RBI since mid-June. Does Adam LaRoche have an outfielder's mitt?
End 3rd, 1-1: Nick Green might not be your prototypical home run hitter, but Ian Kinsler has some experience. Kinsler leads off the third with a moon shot into the seats in left to tie this one right back up. Michael Young follows with a single, but again Buchholz shrugs it off, getting three straight groundouts to Pedroia to limit the damage.
Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: We have a pulse! Nick Green leads off the third with a booming home run to center field. Now that's the way to lead off an inning. Pedroia and Ortiz then combine for about 210 feet of singles later in the inning, giving the Sox three hits in an inning for the first time since who knows when. Only one run, but the wheels might finally be in motion.
End 2nd, 0-0: Already, we're seeing the difference between the 2008 Buchholz and the new-and-improved 2009 model. A year ago, something like a double steal with two outs would have flustered Buchholz and probably led to a big inning. Tonight, after Nelson Cruz and David Murphy pulled the double steal, Buchholz hunkered down and got a groundout to end the inning. Buchholz had two strikeouts in the inning, giving him three for the game.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: At last, a leadoff hit that remains a hit. This time, Ortiz stops at first on a flair to right-center. But progress must come slowly for this offense. Even after J.D. Drew walked — another small miracle considering his 3-for-44 slump — no runs were forthcoming. Kotsay looked bad striking out for the second out, then Jason Varitek fell behind 0-and-2 and flew out to left. Kotsay did nothing to help his cause with that at-bat.
8:30 p.m.: Gotta love the blog shout-out from our man Dave Roberts, who has filled in admirably for Jerry Remy this season. Everyone talks about The Steal (and rightfully so), but my favorite Roberts moment will always be the Game 5 hit-and-run with Trot Nixon in the eighth inning. That was the moment when the comeback from 3-0 down really seemed possible for the first time.
End 1st, 0-0: Pitching has not been the problem during this stretch (John Smoltz's sixth inning Monday aside). Clay Buchholz hits Ian Kinsler with a pitch to lead off his outing, but comes back strong with a strikeout, groundout and pop-out to leave Kinsler stuck on third.
Mid 1st, 0-0: This is looking like another long night. Actually, it might be a short night, if the first inning is an indication. Two strikeouts for Dustin Nippert, as Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis combine for 11 pitches before sitting down. Ellsbury might be the leadoff hitter of the future, but he's terrible in the present. On one hand, it's nice that he took the first four pitches of his at-bat. But the last three were strikes, and once again, the Red Sox leadoff hitter fails to reach base. The Sox are now 1-for-27 with a walk leading off an inning since Sunday, and the one hit was David Ortiz, who was thrown out trying to stretch a double Tuesday night.
8 p.m.: OK, enough of the off-field drama. The Red Sox are about to come to the plate, hoping to get the offense going again and avoid falling two games behind the Yankees, who won their sixth in a row this afternoon. No Mike Lowell in the lineup tonight. Mark Kotsay, in perhaps his final game with the Red Sox, plays first base and bats seventh, with Kevin Youkilis over at third base. Nick Green, now back in a reserve role, gets the start at shortstop and bats ninth.
7:40 p.m.: Tweet-master Flash John Henry has let the word go forth that there are no blockbuster trades on the horizon. I was having a fever dream this afternoon about Jacoby Ellsbury headlining a deal to the Mets for Carlos Beltran. The Mets get speed and defense for Citi Field, while the Red Sox get a left-handed thumper. Just a thought.
7:20 p.m.: Julio Lugo has a home in St. Louis. The Red Sox made their second trade of the afternoon, getting struggling outfielder Chris Duncan and a player to be named later (Pujols!) for Lugo and a whole lot of cabbage.
3:30 p.m.: Pitching has not been the main culprit in this post-All Star slump. Red Sox bats have fallen silent and the famous patient approach to hitting has been scrapped as the team presses to turn things around. But the wheels of change are already turning, with the Red Sox once again going to the Pittsburgh well for trade-deadline assistance. In 2003, it was Jeff Suppan. Last year, it was Jason Bay. Today's Pirate expatriate is Adam LaRoche, a 29-year-old first baseman with some pop (12 homers, 40 RBI) and a history of second-half heroics (.901 OPS). Gone are minor league shortstop Argenis Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland.
With Mark Kotsay battling injuries and lacking power and Mike Lowell a ticking hip time bomb, the move provides needed insurance on the corners. Whether this is a prelude to a bigger deal over the next week remains to be seen, It is not known yet whom LaRoche will replace on the roster, although Kotsay has been battling a nagging calf injury and could be headed back to the DL. At the minimum, it shows the Red Sox front office is just as concerned about the offense as a panicked Nation, and remedies are being sought. Will it be enough to keep the AL East a three-team race? Stay tuned.