The Red Sox are back in Fenway Park, where they hope the home field offers a true advantage and allows them to shake off a recent slump. It certainly got off to the right start on Tuesday night with an 18-6 thumping of the Blue Jays.
Still, the win came during a tim when there is no shortage of panic in Red Sox Nation. Concern over the starting rotation, the bullpen, the MVP-caliber second baseman and the Rays' resurgence are among the topics touched upon in this week's mailbag.
To what do you attribute this current run of losses?
— Will, Cambridge, Mass.
Well, when the season started and the Sox were 0-6 coming off their first road trip, everybody attributed that to the starting pitching. I think we are seeing a similar pattern his time as well. Starters are not going deep into games. Relievers are working too much and are being overused in spots their roles do not call for. That said, you can't help but think not only the injuries to starters but also to position players are playing a role as well. The health of the starting staff remains the greatest concern.
As it is, you have to be concerned about Game 3 of any potential playoff series because of the inconsistencies of John Lackey and Eric Bedard's health.
Can the Rays overtake the Red Sox for a playoff spot?
— Sally, Okemo, Vt.
I think the Red Sox will still prevail. Obviously, getting the sweep in St. Pete has given the Rays life that for most of this season they have not had. They won in Baltimore on Monday and are starting to play really well, but then they lost on Tuesday. They are in one of these modes where the playoffs have started for them right now. I am surprised to see them even in this spot based on the newly constructed bullpen and the loss of some key position players like Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford.
I am a great fan of Joe Maddon's positive approach and believe he has them in the right mind-set.
However, I still believe the Sox will end up in the postseason over the Rays.
What do you make of Daniel Bard's recent problems?
— Ned, Billings, Mont.
Well, I think he has set the bar so high that anytime he falters at all it seems like a big deal. In his role, he has performed masterfully. A few hiccups and everybody panics because that is an area of the game that you have come to rely on. Looking at him in Toronto, it appeared his arm angle was lower and his velocity was down. Is he injured or tired? Tough to tell. I also think that at this time of the year, everybody is tired and hurt in some way. I think Terry Francona will be mindful of the rest guys need down the stretch without hurting their chances to move into October.
Dustin Pedroia had an awful trip at the plate. Is he hurt?
— Drew, Auburn, Mass.
I don't think so. Is he banged up because the Sox have played 146 games? Perhaps. I also think he is very streaky. As cold as he was in Toronto and Tampa, he can get as hot going in the other direction. You may have seen that begin on Tuesday night, when he went 4-for-5 with five RBIs.
Defensively during the slump, he was his normal, very good self. So I don't think there is anything wrong with him health-wise. I never expect a slump to continue for Pedroia. He can will his way out of any slump and make it go away. That turnaround has started already with this series when the Red Sox returned to Fenway Park, and I'm guessing it continues.
Are you returning to the postseason on TBS?
— Tori, La Jolla, Calif.
I am. Amazingly, this will be my fifth postseason on TBS. It has passed by pretty quickly. It does not seem that long ago that I was doing the one-game playoff between the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres in 2007. I'm not sure of who my partner will be or what series I will be put on. There is nothing like October baseball. That week of the division series is always very fun for me and one I look forward to every year.