Home at last.
The Red Sox get a much-needed day off after an eight game road trip and a stretch of 20-games-in-20-days that ended Wednesday afternoon in Baltimore.
At the start of that busy stretch, the Sox were on the brink of disaster. They lost six of their first seven games, a slide that culminated in Josh Beckett?s horrific 2 1/3-inning, seven-run performance on Friday, May 10 against Cleveland. Beckett left that game to a crescendo of boos from the home fans, and the Sox were 7 1/2 games out of first place.
The team hadn?t hit rock bottom — they had already hit that when they blew a 9-0 lead to the Yankees at Fenway April 21. But it was another low point in an up-and-down season that had yet to stabilize.
It may have also been part of the impetus for a players-only, closed-door meeting held the next day. Reportedly called to order by David Ortiz, the meeting is said to have gotten heated at times.
Whatever was said, it worked. The Sox have won 10 of 13 games since that meeting, and return home at .500 for the fourth time this year. They haven?t been above that mark yet, but are trending in that direction. Finally.
Putting together a run like that is one thing; putting it together with glue and duct tape is another. The Red Sox return home with seven (seven!) outfielders on the disabled list. None of the three players expected to start in the outfield this season are expected back in the next month.
In Wednesday?s series finale, the Sox faced the Orioles with an outfield of Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik and Adrian Gonzalez. Nava was not invited to spring training camp this year, Podsednik was struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line with Philadelphia?s Triple-A affiliate when the Sox acquired him two weeks ago and Gonzalez had two big-league appearances as an outfielder in his career.
Not exactly Rice-Lynn-Evans.
On the bench were Marlon Byrd (made available by Theo Epstein after hitting under .100 for the Cubs) and Che-Hsuan Lin (a 23-year-old who had never played in the big leagues before this year).
Ryan Sweeney is on the new MLB seven-day DL (for concussion-related injuries) and should be back next week. Darnell McDonald, who began the season as the fifth starter, should be back before too long and will provide much-needed outfield depth.
Yet it will probably be a while before the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, or even Cody Ross, are back on the field. So the Sox will continue to try and get by like they have over the past two weeks. They?ve done it with a strong bullpen (21 earned runs in 102 2/3 IP since the April 22 loss to New York) and a much-improved rotation.
They?ve also found unexpected sources of offense, like home runs from Nava, Podsednik, and Kelly Shoppach on Wednesday. Maybe you can?t expect players like that to carry this team all season, but they have been doing the job right now, when the Red Sox need them. Some of the team?s top stars won?t be back for a while, and if the Sox are still alive when they do return, it will be because of the unexpected contributions from an unlikely cast of role players.