BOSTON -- The old adage “April showers bring May flowers” does not apply to the current version of the Boston Red Sox. While April was a feel-good, sunshiny stretch that allowed the Sox to put 2012 into the rearview mirror, May has been a disaster.
And just as April saw the Sox excel in almost every department, up and down the lineup, through the rotation and into the late innings, May has seen struggle creep into every nook and cranny. Big bats such as David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Jacoby Ellsbury have slumped of late. The defense has had some ugly moments. The beleaguered bullpen has been inconsistent and the rotation, while still solid, has allowed a few ugly lines to sneak in after what was a historic run of efficiency in April.
On Sunday, it was Ryan Dempster’s turn to face the old market correction. He entered as a surprise member of the American League’s strikeout leaders while sporting a sparkling 2.93 ERA, which soared by nearly a run after the Blue Jays broke out the bats in a 12-4 rout.
Dempster was charged with six runs in five innings, giving up three home runs for the first time in 27 starts.
“I was missing up in the zone a lot today, more than I normally do, for whatever reason,” he said. “Couldn’t really pinpoint it. Just tried to get the ball back down.”
Dempster blamed his slider, which was the pitch he threw that Emilio Bonifacio hammered into the Toronto bullpen to make it 5-0 in the fourth. But Dempster also served up a fastball that Jose Bautista deposited over the Green Monster and threw a lame splitter that Edwin Encarnacion sent toward Cambridge.
Like a lot of things this month, nothing was really working.
The team ERA is 4.76 in May after a 3.58 showing in the first month of the season. The starters’ ERA has gone from 3.24 in April to 4.54 in May. One of baseball’s best offenses in April has averaged 3.3 runs in its past 11 games, going 0-for-20 with runners in scoring position in the past two games and 3-for-37 in the past three. Once an airtight defense, the Sox have climbed up the charts with a rash of errors this month.
While he remains supremely confident in his crew, manager John Farrell acted almost as if he expected a return to earth.
“As much as we cashed in in the month of April, it may be cliché, but things are evening out,” he said.
And it doesn’t get any easier. After nursing their increasing number of wounds (catcher David Ross was placed on the seven-day concussion list Sunday while right fielder Shane Victorino went to the hospital to have his side examined slamming into the right-field wall), the Sox play 20 games in 20 days beginning Tuesday in Tampa Bay. That is the first of nine in a row on the road, including three-game sets at Minnesota and Chicago.
“It’s going to be a tough road trip, facing a good team. Tampa always seems to play well against us,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, one of the few hitters to have a good homestand. “Minnesota just got done playing a good series against us. We feel pretty confident we’re going to go out there and stay within ourselves, take it one day at a time.”
The Sox expressed loads of confidence in themselves when they returned home following a three-game sweep in Texas. While they dug into the well of clichés again and kept a stiff upper lip after Sunday’s loss, the reality of the situation is something different than it was when this homestand began.
Boston went 2-5 on the stay, getting outscored 46-29, the kind of margin that develops when there is a lack of production in all phases of the game. Whether the Sox get over this bump in the road or get sidetracked into something more severe depends on the resiliency, work ethic and togetherness that everyone trumpeted during an 18-8 April.
“I think we’ve got a number of guys dealing with some frustration right now, there’s no question about it,” Farrell said. “The key for us is to maintain our preparation and work routine. Those are the two things that we can control. We can’t direct the ball after it’s hit and I know with the attitude of this group, it’s a resilient one and we’re getting tested right now, there’s no doubt about it.”
The Red Sox have played 25 games at home, three more than any team in baseball. They were graced with a relatively solid degree of health, until recently. And contrary to recent seasons when Boston has limped out of the gate, everyone seemed to be in sync. But that was in April, and they’ve yet to see the flowers in May.