Clearly, a 7-20 record in the month of September proved this team was not equipped to succeed down the stretch. If Boston is to avoid missing the playoffs for the third season in a row. there are some issues that need to be addressed.
Once thought to be a strength of the club in spring training and for much of the regular season, the club's starting pitching faltered in a big way down the stretch. While top starters Josh Beckett and Jon Lester had their share of struggles in the closing weeks, the rest of the rotation — John Lackey, Andrew Miller, Erik Bedard, Tim Wakefield, Kyle Weiland — was even worse, going 2-8 in the final month and routinely failing to go deep into games.
The shaky starting pitching led to shaky outings from the bullpen. With the exception of Alfredo Aceves, the relievers offered little relief as Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon both imploded in big moments, taking the losses in five of the final 21 contests.
While the work on the mound left a lot to be desired, so too did the offense. Baseball's top scoring team throughout the season was maddeningly inconsistent in September. While the Sox averaged 11.4 runs per game in their final seven wins, Boston mustered only 3.1 runs per game in its last 20 losses.
The team's inability to win close games could also be attributed to its defense. Boston finished 28th in the league in defensive assists, and Carl Crawford's dropped fly ball in Wednesday night's loss proved the D didn't make enough plays when it was needed.
Perhaps the problem is not on the field at all. Terry Francona's club seemed poised to reach the playoffs, but when the season started to take a detour the manager was unable to stear the club back on the right path. General manager Theo Epstein also could not find a suitable replacement for the injuries to Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka.