<
>

Things getting hard to watch at Fenway

BOSTON -- Three things that are in shorter supply these days than runs at Fenway Park:

1. John W. Henry sightings

2. Reasons for Joe Castiglione to say, “Can you believe it?”

3. Fans wearing Vaughn Eshelman jerseys

That’s about it. The Red Sox began July with a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Almighty Cubs, a National League colossus previously undetected in these parts. The Cubs’ media relations director is Peter Chase, the Boston University grad who used to serve as a Red Sox PR assistant. Chase’s otherwise pristine game notes state that the Cubs came to town 12 games under .500. Judging by the look of the team that has beaten the Sox two straight nights, that has to be a typo, so help me Theo.

None of the following, regrettably for the Sox, is a misprint:

• They have scored 10 runs in their past seven games at Fenway Park, spanning 66 innings. Tuesday night, when they had a chance to get Cubs starter Edwin Jackson in the second inning, catcher A.J. Pierzynski tried to stretch a single into a double and the ball beat him by a full Green Line T stop. The ball was waiting at Kenmore; Pierzynski was still at Hynes Auditorium, which is why he didn’t bother to slide.

Pierzynski said afterward he was just trying to get into scoring position, a noble undertaking when you have a reasonable chance to do so, reckless driving when you don’t.

In the same inning, with runners on the corners, Stephen Drew, perhaps dazed that an opposing pitcher would walk him given his prolonged slump, was picked off first by catcher Welington Castillo. He was out by an even bigger margin than A.J.: Think Copley to Kenmore.

Manager John Farrell tried to take some of the blame for that one, saying the Sox had put Drew in motion to get a feel for how closely the Cubs were keeping runners on.

“A little bit too aggressive,’’ Farrell said. “He ends up in no-man’s land.”

• The Sox have scored a total of one run in two nights, assuring the Cubs, making just their second regular-season visit to Fenway, a series victory, regardless of who wins Wednesday’s finale.

Say this about Luis Suarez, the disgraced Uruguayan soccer star who plays for Henry’s Liverpool team: Suarez might be a serial biter, but at least he scores with regularity.

• The Mookie effect so far has been negligible. Spirited to the majors to give the team a lift, Mookie Betts singled, walked and scored a run in his debut in Yankee Stadium, but is 0-for-7 in two games in Fenway. It might take a herculean effort just for the 21-year-old Betts to get in the batter’s box, given the Sox are asking him to learn how to play outfield on the fly, no easy task.

• The Sox are batting a collective .194 (43-for-220) in their past seven home games, matching the batting average of Miserable Mike Lansing in 2000. Brock Holt and Dustin Pedroia, the first two batters in the lineup, had five hits between them Tuesday night. The rest of the team had three.

• They have two home runs in that span, one each by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, and a whole lot more whiffs (53) than walks (19).

• Hits with men in scoring position? Try 4-for-36, a .111 average. On Monday night, when they went 23 outs against Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta before registering their first hit, Drew’s two-out single in the eighth, they never advanced a runner past first base.

It wasn’t much better Tuesday night against Edwin Jackson, who began the night with a 6.70 ERA in eight road starts and left after a yield of one run in six innings, the fewest runs he has allowed on the road since last September. The Cubs bullpen then limited the Sox to two singles over the final three innings.

“The pitching, man,” David Ortiz said when asked to describe the level of his disbelief that this could be happening here.

“C’mon man, when have you seen [expletive] Jackson throw a 3-and-0 changeup for a strike? You can do that, you should have a 2.5 [ERA].”

The Sox are supposed to find refuge in Fenway, especially after a three-city trip that spanned three time zones and had the Sox complaining bitterly last weekend. But after losing again Tuesday night, they’re now 20-21 in the Fens, a record that makes it a bit disingenuous to say, oh joy, the Sox have eight more games left on this homestand.

The Sox have been held to two runs or fewer in 15 of their 41 games on Yawkey Way. That’s nearly 37 percent of their home games. They’re averaging 3.7 runs a game at home this season; that’s just a slightly higher average than the average number of goals hockey’s Bruins scored this season (3.15). Paging Patrice Bergeron.

“It gets a little frustrating at times, particularly with the number of opportunities we continue to create,” Farrell said. “That’s the thing we have to continue to focus on internally, is that the opportunities are there. And yet, at times, we’re not cashing in.”

Concede this much to the Cubs: They showed off the leather in exquisite fashion Tuesday night.

The visitors made at least five good defensive plays. Right fielder Nate Schierholtz took a base hit away from Holt with a diving catch in the third. Center fielder Ruggiano made an over-the-head catch of Xander Bogaerts’ liner to strand two in the fourth. Shortstop Starlin Castro gloved Napoli’s ball up the middle for an inning-ending force with the bases loaded in the fifth. And left fielder Chris Coghlan made a leaping catch of Pierzynski’s drive to the Monster in the eighth.

They saved their best for last, though, when third baseman Valbuena made a sprawling stop of Pedroia’s two-out grounder with a runner on first in the ninth, and first baseman Rizzo made a terrific pickup of Valbuena’s one-hop throw to nip Pedroia. Farrell challenged the call, to no avail.

Lost in all this is the fact that the Sox pitching staff is on one of the great rolls in franchise history. Since May 28, they have held the opposition to three runs or fewer in each of their past 14 home games, the longest such streak in team history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

But too often, that simply has meant the Sox have lost another game by a single run. Tuesday night’s defeat was the 18th one-run loss this season, most in the AL.

“It goes hand in hand,” said Clay Buchholz, who like Jake Peavy the night before pitched well enough to win. “It could be the complete opposite just as easily as it’s going for us right now.

“You’ve just got to grind, this game is tough. It’ll click for the offense and the pitching staff together at some point. It’s not like it’s never going to work out. Just got to stay confident and handle what you’ve got to do, just go out and do your job.”