The Sox have lost nine of their first 11 games. It’s their worst start in 15 years. They’ve lost good games (like the 3-2 pitchers’ duel Tuesday night), bad games (take your pick of the three games in Texas) and ugly games (Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s Monday night disaster).
If you consider the rain-shortened, two-game series with the Rays a complete series, the Sox have already been swept three times this season. They were swept four times total in 2010.
The Sox don’t get back to work until Friday, when John Farrell and the Toronto Blue Jays come to town. Today was a scheduled day off, a mid-week break that became a bit longer thanks to Wednesday’s rain. A 48-hour, much-needed, mental holiday.
In addition to canceling the game, the Sox also announced a shuffling of the rotation. Essentially, the team was skipping John Lackey‘s turn through the rotation, bumping him to next Tuesday’s game in Oakland. Lackey is 8-4 against the A’s in Oakland with a 2.92 ERA. Spending most of his time in the AL West, he has made 16 starts at the Coliseum.
Make no mistake, this move wasn’t about letting Lackey find his comfort zone with a start against a familiar opponent. It’s about reconstructing the rotation in a more sensible order. Josh Beckett will now pitch between Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, right where he belongs.
Originally, Francona set up the rotation to keep Beckett from pitching in Texas. It made sense, considering the lack of success Beckett has had against the Rangers, and it worked — Beckett didn’t pitch great in Cleveland but was phenomenal against the Yankees.
Two weeks later, the Sox have the fewest wins in all of baseball and are desperate to get off the schneid. Matsuzaka (0-2, 12.86) and Lackey (1-1, 15.58) are off to disappointing starts, and the time has come to reshuffle the deck and put the best pitchers first.
Francona’s move sends a clear message. Lackey has struggled and will now have to wait 10 days between starts. He will not simply get the ball every fifth day.
There was also another interesting decision by the manager on Wednesday. Jed Lowrie would’ve been the starter for the second straight night. Lowrie had two of Boston’s five hits off lefty David Price on Tuesday night, but it was somewhat surprising to see his name written in the projected lineup against right-hander James Shields.
“Jed’s hitting about .480,” Francona said of the decision. “We don’t have a lot of guys hitting .480.”
Indeed. As a team, the Sox are hitting .230, just .192 with runners in scoring position. There have been four games in which they have scored two or fewer runs while getting five or fewer hits, and they’ve only played 11 games.
Francona wouldn’t commit to Lowrie beyond Wednesday night’s game, and why would he? If there’s ever been a “one day at a time” stretch to a Red Sox season, it’s right now. Now more than ever, the manager needs to do whatever he can to jump-start this team. He needs to make moves like starting a backup shortstop who’s off to a good start and bumping a pitcher who’s struggling to the back of the rotation.
Even though they never played a game Wednesday, we learned that Francona was prepared to make both moves. We’ll see what other moves he has in mind when they get back to work Friday night.