BALTIMORE -- The Boston Red Sox have issues. And one of them is how badly they need offense.
A day after erupting for 10 runs against the Baltimore Orioles -- including a bat-around fifth inning that erased a 6-1 deficit -- Boston’s bats went back into hibernation in a 1-0 extra-innings win over Baltimore on Tuesday. Even though they did enough to win, finally putting a run across in the top of the 11th, the string of 10 consecutive bagels that the Sox hung on the Camden Yards jumbotron prior to that provided an ugly reminder that once the postseason rolls around, the Red Sox might have trouble hanging with the American League’s heaviest hitters.
Of the five AL teams currently in playoff position, the Red Sox rank last in scoring (4.8 runs per game), on-base percentage (.331), slugging (.407) and OPS (.738). In those last two categories, they aren't just bad relative to playoff teams. They’re just plain bad: Their slugging percentage is the fifth-lowest in the majors, and their OPS is 10th-lowest. It doesn’t help that Boston isn’t whole. Utilityman Eduardo Nunez, who has been a godsend since coming over from San Francisco at the trade deadline, is out with a knee injury. Dustin Pedroia, the engine that makes the Sox go, didn’t start Tuesday after Monday’s nasal contusion and has had trouble staying on the field all year. Then there’s slugger Hanley Ramirez, who isn't hurt but has been hitting like he is (.205 average since the break).
“We’re banged up,” skipper John Farrell said. “That’s apparent.”
The problem is that even when healthy, Farrell’s offense isn’t the prototypical Red Sox offense that opposing teams have come to know and fear. With slugger David Ortiz gone, power has suddenly become a scarce commodity. The Sox's 156 jacks are the fewest in the American League. In a season in which 31 big league hitters have reached the 30-homer plateau, Boston’s co-home-run leaders (Ramirez and Mookie Betts) are on pace for just 23 bombs. But perhaps nothing, and I mean nothing, speaks more to the Sox's offensive issues than this: On Tuesday, the very same night that MLB set a new record for home runs in a season, Boston needed an infield hit, two walks and a wild pitch to produce its lone run. Needless to say, a solo homer would’ve been way easier. But these Red Sox don’t really do home runs.
What they do well is extra-inning wins, another sign of just how much trouble they’ve had scratching out runs. With Tuesday night's win, the Sox improved to 15-3 in overtime this season. That’s the best record in the majors, and it ties a franchise record for extra-inning wins in a season. That’s all fine and good, and it speaks to just how good the Boston bullpen has been, but maybe if the Red Sox generated more offense on a more consistent basis, they wouldn’t require more than nine innings to get the job done. If you don’t think that theory holds any water, think again: Of the four other teams in the top five in extra-inning games played this season (Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates, Phillies), none ranks higher than 25th in runs scored.
Just how bad have things gotten? So bad that Mitch Moreland, who sandwiched a hot August between a .145 July and a .183 September, was hitting cleanup on Tuesday. So bad that Pedroia -- who busted his nose the day before and who Farrell said before the game would be used only in an emergency -- actually got used. Naturally, he grounded into an inning-ending double play. Because that’s the way things have been going for the Red Sox's offense.
“Hopefully, in due time,” Farrell said, “the guys that have been big offensive contributors for us, Nuney being one, Pedey getting back in the lineup a little more regularly, Hanley hopefully getting back on track somewhat … we’ve got some guys coming to us.”
Then, without skipping a beat, the Sox skipper changed the subject.
“In the meantime, what the pitching staff is doing is remarkable.”
So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.