Dustin Pedroia was just 1-for-7 with one run scored in his short two-game return from a broken left foot earlier in August. However, his presence alone seemed to transform the Red Sox' offense, which scored 13 runs on 20 hits in going 2-0 with Pedroia batting second.
Unfortunately, it only lasted 48 hours.
Since Pedroia departed for the second time this year due to lingering issues in the foot, Boston's once-potent attack has again gone dormant. It's as if the baseball gods needed to remind everyone that Pedroia is an MVP.
After failing to come up with the big hit on several occasions in a 5-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night, the Sox have strung together five straight games with three runs or less. They have averaged 3.4 runs per game since Pedroia had to shut it down, posting a 5-6 mark in a critical stretch to end the month of August.
In Sunday's loss at Tampa Bay, there were single RBIs for Marco Scutaro, Daniel Nava and Yamaico Navarro, the first of his career. On Tuesday, the only runs to speak of came on a two-run homer by Jed Lowrie. Not a lot of big names getting big hits.
Just one might have made the difference in the series-opener at Camden Yards.
"We didn't get a big hit," manager Terry Francona said. "We just couldn't get enough. We had our chances and we didn't cash in."
Mike Lowell, who hit a humdrum .256 with eight RBIs in August while filling in for the injured Kevin Youkilis, struck out looking with runners on the corners to end the sixth.
The first two men reached for the Sox in the seventh and were bunted to second and third by Bill Hall. Scutaro, a .239 hitter in August, grounded weakly to third for the second out. Daniel Nava, 4-for-26 (.154) in the meager month, took a page from Lowell's book by watching the third strike go by.
"You have to take advantage of opportunities when you get them," Lowrie said.
A Victor Martinez single to lead off the eighth would be the only other Red Sox base runner as Francona's bunch lost its third straight game for the first time since before the All-Star break.
Statistically, Boston remains one of the best offensive teams in baseball but so much of what put the club at or near the top in several categories came amid the explosions in May and June. Since then, it's been a slow descent. The club's batting average went from .298 in June to .255 in July to .253 in August. The on-base percentage plummeted from .372 to .331 to .306.
The Sox had a one-month stretch from July 10 to Aug. 9 in which they failed to score more than six runs in a nine-inning game. They were held to three runs or less 13 times in that difficult stretch.
That offensive funk was a bit easier to take for two reasons. One, the overwhelming sense of desperation that currently surrounds the Red Sox was not in play. Two, they had hope in the fact that Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and maybe even Mike Cameron might return to contribute.
Now, the reinforcements will come in the form of September call-ups such as Josh Reddick, who owns a .167 career average, and the reactivation of guys like Eric Patterson and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Not exactly game-changers at this stage of their careers.
With all due respect to those who will join the team when rosters expand on Wednesday, none engender the hope that Pedroia and other big names did before their seasons, in all likelihood, came to an end.
The Red Sox are left to attack with what they have. Lately that attack has been virtually non-existent.
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