BOSTON — The Red Sox haven’t exactly played fundamentally sound baseball this season.
There have been several instances of late in which the Red Sox have made mental mistakes. It hasn’t always cost them, but it looks bad for an underachieving team in last place in the American League East.
“As each one of those situations comes up, there are constant reminders,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Saturday’s game against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. “Ultimately, it’s anticipating the game situation.”
Boston made more mental miscues in Friday night’s 12-8, extra-inning loss. None were especially egregious, unless, of course, you count Mookie Betts’ unsuccessful — and ill-advised — attempt to steal third base in the eighth inning with the Red Sox trailing by a run.
“That conversation is immediate in the dugout, then after the game,” Farrell said Saturday of Betts pushing the envelope a bit too far in Boston’s series opener against Houston. “You talk to your players every day about game situations. And while Mookie does so many good things for us on both sides of the ball, that was an aggressive decision that did not work out.
“He’s learning the game, particularly when it comes to trying to be aggressive on the base paths. There’s been a couple of instances this year where the game situation hasn’t presented an opportunity to take a bag, and it’s cost us. So that’s part of his learning curve.”
Let’s toss Betts’ mishap aside. Because while it didn’t make sense for him to take off for third base in that particular situation, the Red Sox have reaped the benefits of his aggressiveness in the past and can live with him taking chances from time to time.
The real issues are those in which the Red Sox forget the count or the number of outs. Such mental lapses might or might not prove costly, but they reflect a lack of focus. And that’s a problem.
Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. each forgot how many outs there were in a four-game span earlier this week. Hanley Ramirez and Alejandro De Aza then had mental lapses in the seventh inning Friday.
Ramirez forgot the count. Josh Fields tossed ball four, but the slugger backed up and started adjusting his batting gloves before eventually taking his base.
De Aza rounded second base and darted toward third base on an inning-ending groundout, eventually diving into the bag and even calling for a review after being “tagged out.” In De Aza’s defense, no one seemed to be aware of the situation, including the Astros and third base umpire Laz Diaz, but it still was an interesting sight when one considers the other mental lapses the Red Sox have had recently.
“If some view that as a mental mistake, that’s a misread on that particular play,” Farrell said of the De Aza incident.
The bottom line, regardless of whether such plays ultimately come back to bite the Red Sox, is that there have been far too many head-scratching moments this season. Mistakes will be made over the course of 162 games — some of them mental — but Boston needs to show a sense of urgency.
And that sense of urgency starts with eliminating inexcusable gaffes.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images