Things were looking very optimistic for the Red Sox after their beatdown of the Orioles last weekend, heading into a series with the Yankees that would be massive for the American League playoff picture. The Sox were 10-3 against the Yankees before Tuesday. They are now 10-6. Losing both ends of the doubleheader and the finale on Wednesday, the Red Sox are now a full game behind New York in the AL East.
Not even a month ago, Boston was in first place in the division and had a 10 game lead over the Yankees. Since then, they have one of the worst records in the MLB, and blew that massive lead to fall out of a wild card spot. Their September schedule is BRUTAL, with series against the Rays (twice), Yankees, Mariners, White Sox, and Mets. They have a soft patch in their schedule against the Rangers, Twins and Indians, but they have to win the majority of those to even think about competing down the stretch.
So, what is the problem with the Red Sox at the moment?
For starters, their once-potent offense is now in a standstill. They can't generate runs consistently, and they are hitting terribly with men on base. Boston left 18 men on base over the course of three games against the Yankees, including not getting a single hit in the final inning after loading the bases in the first game. The Sox are swinging at awful pitches, and falling behind in counts early. Last night against the Yankees, they swung at 44% of pitches that were outside of the zone. For reference, over the season they have swung at those same pitches at a 34% rate, easily the worst in the league. Giving the pitchers an upper hand almost every at bat is the easiest way to slow down an offense. They made Andrew Heaney look like an ace when he is probably one of the worst starters in the American League, they got only two hits against him over seven innings. That is not a recipe to win games consistently, hence the saying "you can't win if you can't score"
Another massive area of regression for the Red Sox has been the bullpen. Before the All-Star break, they could pitch one of their below-average starters five innings, and then rely on the bullpen the rest of the game to shut the door, and it was working wonders. Now, it seems like the bullpen causes a huge mess every time they are asked to pitch in a big spot. In game one on Tuesday, the Sox called on Garrett Whitlock, who is having a stellar season, to relieve Tanner Houck and keep the lead. That did not happen at all. Him and Josh Taylor gave up three runs on mostly walks to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. The once automatic Whitlock suffocated in a huge spot for them. It doesn't stop there, either. All-Star closer Matt Barnes has been poor as of late, so has Adam Ottavino. The two main arms in the bullpen that Alex Cora relied on are not performing at the level they once were. Now, does this have to do with the fact that they are burning out after so much use early on? Maybe. But it doesn't move away from the fact that they have gotten significantly worse over the past month.
Sure, the season isn't close to being over. But the current state of the Red Sox doesn't offer much hope for the stretch run. The whole team just has to be better. Plain and simple.