Can?t get enough Red Sox coverage? Well, you?re in the right place.
Every week, The Lineup will take a comprehensive, numerical and often uproarious look back at the previous week of Red Sox action both on and off the diamond. We?ll go one through nine, from the top to bottom in the order, covering all you need to know about your favorite team.
Without further ado, let?s get this party started:
Is it me, or did it seem just a week or two ago like the Red Sox had a huge, possibly insurmountable lead in the AL East? Well, after Thursday?s loss to the — blech — Royals, the Sox and Yankees are once again tied atop the division. And after beating Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay on Thursday, the pesky defending AL champion Rays sit just 4 1/2 games back in third.
Did you expect anything less this season in what is by far baseball?s best division?
While the Red Sox have faltered of late, going 4-6 in their last 10 games against the likes of the Orioles, Mariners, A?s and Royals, the Yanks have been en fuego, winning 13 of their last 15.
There?s still plenty of time, but for the Red Sox to get back in the swing of things, some things — namely, their swings — need to change.
Slumps at the plate
?We?ve not gotten a ton of offense [lately],? Red Sox manager Terry Francona told the Globe following his club?s 6-0 loss to Oakland A?s on Monday. "We?ve just got to fight through it. We just haven?t gotten on track swinging the bat real well.?
Thanks, Captain Understatement.
All-Star starter Jason Bay has followed up his .230 average in June by kicking it up a notch to a far superior .231 so far in July. J.D. Drew is at .200 so far this month after an 0-for-5 against Kansas City on Thursday. And where have you gone, Kevin Youkilis? Though he, too, is headed for the All-Star Game, Youk hit .244 in June, is raking at a whopping rate of .121 in July and looks close to cracking himself in the head with his bat after every frustrating out.
It?s official, the Red Sox lineup is struggling. Major strugs. Kerri Strugs.
Who?da thunk at the end of May, when David Ortiz was hitting .185 with one home run, that we?d be talking about him seven weeks later as the team?s hottest hitter?
OK, so his average is only up to .225, but with Thursday?s opposite field dinger, Papi became the 19th active player to reach the 300-homer mark for his career. He?s the first player to hit his 300th bomb in a Red Sox uniform since Manny Ramirez did it in 2002.
Ortiz now has 10 homers since June 6, the second most in the American League in that span.
Papi?s back, and his return couldn?t have come at a better time given how much the rest of the lineup is hurting.
Tim Wakefield, All-Star
According to Fox Sports, Francona tried ? really tried ? to keep a straight face last weekend when he did his best to convince Tim Wakefield that he didn?t make the American League All-Star team.
?Francona had a properly somber tone to his voice as he began to remind Wakefield how difficult it was to make the team and how tough the competition was,? writes Sean McAdam.
But after a couple of seconds, he relented, smiled and told the 42-year-old that he had been chosen for his first All-Star appearance, becoming the oldest All-Star rookie since some guy named Satchel Paige.
The understated Wake was predictably psyched.
"You go and play professional baseball and always want to make an All-Star team,? he said. ?I've had opportunities, just never got a chance. I think I appreciate it more now, knowing how hard it is to be picked. If it had happened a lot sooner, I still would have appreciated it. But not as much as I do now.?
Talk about appreciation ? how ironic is it that on a staff with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Smoltz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Brad Penny, a 42-year-old knuckleballer has been the team?s most consistent starter?
And say what you want about Zack Greinke?s first half, Beckett?s recent successes and Halladay?s ridiculous 10-1 start, but you could make a compelling case that the 11-3 Wake deserves to get the start for the AL next Tuesday in St. Louis.
Paging Doc Halladay?
Speaking of Halladay, there?s more excitement than you could imagine about the possibility of Theo Epstein going out and getting the Jays ace in a pre-trade deadline deal.
One problem: Theo would have to sell off the farm to get the big righty from Toronto. Conservative estimates have names like Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, Daniel Bard, Manny Delcarmen and possibly Lars Anderson being bandied about as trade bait.
Some say the Sox should give up whatever they have to. Like, literally, give the Blue Jays the entire Pawtucket, Portland, Salem, Greenville and Lowell rosters to get Halladay.
?Halladay-Beckett-Lester-Penny-Wakefield … go ahead and print those World Series tickets now,? says Chad Finn of the Globe.
Another reason for the Red Sox to at least be in the mix for Halladay, some think, is to keep tabs on the Yankees, who have been known — on occasion — to mortgage their future for the present.
Me? I think the Red Sox would be giving up on too many of these highly regarded youngsters. I don?t see it happening, especially when, as Tom Caron wrote on Thursday, it?s a left-handed bat that the Sox really need.
Still, it?s fun to dream of a rotation like that.
Boo, jeer, taunt, catcall ? do what you will to certain players for their performances on the field. But regardless of what you think of them, it?s a different story when the term ?medical emergency? affects players? family members.
Dustin Pedroia and Julio Lugo both missed games this week to be with their wives. Pedroia?s wife, Kelli, is pregnant with the couple's first child, a boy, and is seven weeks away from her due date. She went into labor last Monday and is still in the hospital. Pedroia, scheduled to start for the AL in the All-Star Game next week, could skip the game if Kelli remains hospitalized.
Whether you?re a Red Sox fan or not, please join me in rooting for Pedey and Lugo and their wives during their times of need.
When then-PawSox first baseman Aaron Bates was recently told to pack his bags for Boston, his immediate response — I kid thee not — was "Why?"
And after seeing the way he?s hit in the place of injured Jeff Bailey, who was only recalled himself to replace the also-injured Mike Lowell on the major league roster, I couldn?t agree more with his question. Why is he here?
In two games, the 6-foot-4, 25-year-old Bates is hitting more like Kathy Bates, going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts.
Jed Lowrie on the comeback trail
After getting activated from the 60-day disabled list on Wednesday and getting immediately optioned to the Sox? Single-A club, the Lowell Spinners, Jed Lowrie made an immediate impact, belting two doubles, earning two walks and scoring two runs in Wednesday?s 9-0 win over Tri-City.
Thursday night, Lowrie was in Pawtucket and went 0-for-4 in the PawSox? 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Bisons. Reports have Lowrie staying at Triple-A for a smidge before rejoining the Red Sox around July 18.
"Because of weather and him getting banged in the knee, his rehab thing got screwed up," Dr. Francona told WEEI on Thursday. "Friday was supposed to be his last day [of rehab], and he's not ready to play. The best [scenario] baseball-wise was to option him yesterday and we get him back in 10 days. That's when we feel he'll be ready to play."
With Nick Green still holding steady at short and with the bat (he went 2-for-4 on Thursday, though he did suffer a devastating backwards K with runners on in the eighth), I think I speak for much of Red Sox Nation when I say, ?Take your time, Jed.?
Jim Rice: Hall of Famer, TV star
On July 18, NESN will honor the Red Sox legend and current studio analyst by premiering Jim Rice: The Journey to Cooperstown presented by Sullivan Tire to celebrate Rice?s upcoming Hall of Fame induction on July 26.
?Along with Red Sox fans everywhere, we are very excited that Jim is receiving the recognition he richly deserves as one of baseball?s all-time greats,? said Joel Feld, NESN?s executive vice president of programming and executive producer. ?Jim humbly allowed us to follow him back to his hometown in South Carolina to document where he grew up and to meet many of the people that helped make him into the extraordinary player and person that he is today.?
The special, which will air commercial free, features commentary and anecdotes from many of Rice?s former Sox teammates, including Ellis Burks, Dwight Evans, Rich Gedman, Fred Lynn, Jerry Remy and Carl Yastrzemski.
Once again, the special airs Saturday, July 18, at 9 p.m. ET on NESN. And I believe it was the great Elton John who said, ?Saturday night?s all Rice, all Rice, all Rice!? Make sure that?s the case on July 18.