Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine's words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.
As much as the starting pitching of the Boston Red Sox has struggled outside of Clay Buchholz — before Wednesday, that is — it's kind of overshadowed the fact that the offense hasn't held up its end of the bargain, either.
The Red Sox still rank third in Major League Baseball with 595 runs scored this season, but have slipped quite a bit in August, scoring just 85 runs, which is 15th in baseball. A lot of that has to do with simply getting on base, as prior to the All-Star break, Boston had an on-base percentage of .329, good for eighth in MLB. Since David Ortiz went down with an Achilles injury last month, however, the team had reached base at a .303 clip heading into Wednesday, a number that would indicate a bottom-of-the-barrel offense.
Likewise, there are two theories behind the hitters' struggle. One is that the absence of Ortiz has had a ripple effect on the offense, as the team has not only lost one of its big bats but protection for the top of the lineup. The other theory is that it's always difficult to do anything in sports when you're constantly under pressure, as the offense has been of late.
"I guess I'm a little surprised. I don't know if I've had great expectations, but we haven't had that many early leads [at home]," said Red Sox manager Bobby Vantine after Buchholz put the Red Sox in a 4-0 hole early Wednesday in an eventual 7-2 loss to the Angels. "When you're trying to get the offense clicking it's always hard when you're playing from behind. That's why you don't play behind and score early."
The answer is it's probably a combination of the two factors above that has stymied the Sox' offense of late, despite the fact that the overall numbers remain pretty solid. Ortiz's absence has absolutely created a huge hole in the middle of the lineup that everyone has collectively struggled to fill. That may be most of the problem, but don't discount the mental wear-and-tear of constantly being forced to dig the team out of a hole.
The Red Sox seem to have solved their June and July struggles in the first inning, but it's no secret that the starting rotation — particularly Josh Beckett and Jon Lester — has woefully underachieved this year. Actually, "underachieved" seems to undersell it, a euphemism, almost. Rather, the rotation has far too often put the team at a disadvantage early in games.
Frustration can mount quickly in the game of baseball, so there's probably no sense in denying that the offense is undoubtedly affected by constantly facing 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 deficits, and under that kind of pressure it's difficult for even the best athletes in the world to perform at their best. The offense can't really be faulted for Boston's season-long struggles, but it does share a fair bit of the blame — aided by the rotation or not — for the Sox' August slide and current three-game losing streak.
Then again, it's just another case of underachieving, another problem to add to the pile in a Red Sox season that has done extremely well to prove the existence of Murphy's Law. That's why Sox fans are likely waking up on a daily basis thinking 'What's going to go wrong today?'
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