BOSTON -- We asked Gordon Edes, from our sister site at ESPNBoston.com, a few questions about the Red Sox to help perpare you for the series. Here goes:
Q: Can you give us an overall look at the Red Sox coming off a sweep at the hands of the Rays? What are the club's biggest problems?
A: I suppose the first thing I would do is refer your readers to my column this morning.
But right now, the Sox are not playing well across the board, in any phase of the game. A team that focused on upgrading its defense and pitching this season has seen breakdowns in both already, although I think the brutal defense has directly contributed to the pitching shortcomings.
The Sox are without two-thirds of their starting outfield, because of injuries to Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Sox found out Monday night that Cameron, who passed a kidney stone on Friday, has an abdominal tear and was placed on the 15-day DL. Rangers fans know first hand what that can mean, having seen both Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler lose significant time with similar injuries in each of the last two seasons.
Ellsbury, meanwhile, bruised his ribs in a collision with Adrian Beltre a week ago Sunday in Kansas City and has not played since. The Sox thought they could get by without Ellsbury, but when Cameron went down, too, they wound up with Bill Hall in center, a position he hasn’t played since 2007. Jeremy Hermida, meanwhile, has been shaky in left, and Marco Scutaro, the new shortstop, has already made 3 errors after making just 10 last season for the Jays.
Pitching-wise, the biggest surprise is that Jon Lester is off to another slow start; he’s a guy with Cy Young potential, but so far that hasn’t translated (0-2, 8.44). But starting pitching will be the strength of this club, with newcomer John Lackey having pitched well until betrayed by his defense in Monday’s start.
The Sox have now gone 48 innings since they last held a lead, and have been outscored 32-9 in their five-game losing streak. They are hitting .196 (33-for-168) in that span, including 0-for-30 with runners in scoring position.
Six Sox players are batting .219 or less, including Kevin Youkilis, who was hot early but had just one hit, a home run, in 15 at-bats during the Tampa Bay series. J.D. Drew is batting .146 (6-for-41) with nearly three times as many strikeouts as hits (6), the 17 whiffs leading the American League. Victor Martinez grounded into double plays in each of the last two games of the series and leads the league in that category with six.
In their last 66 innings, dating back to a week ago last Sunday in Kansas City, the Sox have had just two innings in which they've scored as many as three runs.
So, it’s been ugly.
Q: Dustin Pedroia is off to a good start. What makes him so productive?
A: You know, with Pedroia it’s probably time to retire the phrase overachiever and just acknowledge him for what he is -- a damn good hitter and one of the elite players in the league, a high-energy guy who swaggers even when he brushes his teeth. Consider Pedroia's line by age 25, which doesn’t include his 2010 numbers: 481 games, .307 batting average, .370 on-base percentage, .855 OPS, 191 extra-base hits.
Check those stats against history, and you'll find only two second basemen with comparable numbers by age 25. One was Tony Lazzeri, who played for the Murderers' Row Yankees and turned 25 in 1929. The other was Larry Doyle of the 1912 New York Giants. That’s a big-time player.
Q: Give us your assessment of the Boston bullpen. Who are some arms that Rangers fans can expect to see in the series?
A: From the eighth inning on, the Sox are in great shape, with Jonathan Papelbon one of the game’s best closers, and left-hander Hideki Okajima a reliable workhorse and Daniel Bard, with his 98-mile-an-hour fastball and outstanding slider excellent in the setup roles. Get beyond that, and you see issues. Manny Delcarmen ended last season with a sore shoulder and his velocity is down five miles an hour, supposedly because he’s modifying his mechanics. Ramon Ramirez has been inconsistent, and Scott Atchison and Scott Schoeneweis may just be holding spots until Alan Embree and Boof Bonser are ready.
Q: Do you think David Ortiz will find his swing again and become a feared hitter like he was a few years ago?
A: No one, including (I suspect) David himself, expects to see the 54-HR version of Big Papi that comprised, with Manny Ramirez, one of the great 1-2 punches in baseball history. Terry Francona has already begun to use Mike Lowell against lefties, and there is great pressure on Ortiz to show that last season’s disastrous start was not a fluke. So far, pitchers have just been pounding him with fastballs and getting away with it.
Q: Who's the biggest surprise on the Red Sox so far this season? The biggest disappointment?
A: The surprise is that they’ve started so badly, especially home at Fenway, going 1-6 against their two biggest rivals in the AL East, the Yankees and Rays. I would say the biggest disappointment has been their inability to catch the ball, with eight errors in the last five games.
Q: Can you give us a quick scouting report of the starting pitchers the Rangers will see in this series?
A: The Rangers will see the knuckleballer, Tim Wakefield, on Tuesday night. Wakefield, who will be 44 in August, made a strong recovery from off-season back surgery and has been one of the better Sox pitchers out of the chute. Wednesday, it will be Josh Beckett, who held the Rays to an unearned run in seven innings in his best start this season but did not get a decision, and Thursday, the Sox will pitch Clay Buchholz, who was tagged for four unearned runs in the first inning of his last start and is fighting to keep a place in the rotation ahead of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is one rehab start away from returning.
Q: Anything else Rangers fans should know about the Red Sox?
A: Yeah, everyone has been running like crazy on the Sox. So far, teams have stolen on 22 of 23 attempts. Last season, it was 151 out of 174. This is a real problem.