By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Red Sox offense isn’t what it used to be.
Sure, they miss David Ortiz – what team wouldn’t miss a guy who hits .315, with 38 home runs and drives in 127 teammates in the middle of their line up – but what took place this weekend against the Yankees at Fenway Park, says more about the guys who are still here, rather than the guy who’s not.
Until Mookie Betts went deep on New York starter Masahiro Tanaka in the third inning of the second game of the day/night doubleheader on Sunday night, the Sox had served up nothing but donuts in the run column for 24 straight innings. The Yanks pitching staff might be pretty good (not really), but they are not that good.
Other than Mookie Betts – who entered the All-Star break in 2016 with 18 home runs and 59 RBI, as opposed to the 16 and 53, he produced this year – and Hanley Ramirez – who had a nearly equally dreadful first half of the season last year (8 home runs and 48 RBI) as this season (13/34) – almost every other player who was in the line up both seasons have seen their production drop off dramatically.
To this point in his career, Betts has shown he can be a key contributor to the offense, but rarely has he shown the ability to carry the team on his shoulders. That being said, if it wasn’t for him stepping up at the plate in the nightcap last night, the Red Sox would likely be riding a three-game losing streak.
To date, Ramirez is proving to be an utter disaster at DH, Jackie Bradley Jr. has been good, not great with his bat; and it is clear to see that the laser show has been reduced to flash light tag, when it comes to the power remaining in Dustin Pedroia’s bat.
The further he gets into his career, the more it seems that Xander Bogaerts is leaning towards becoming a watered-down version of Wade Boggs at short; capable of hitting for a high average, but providing little more than singles and doubles at the plate.
And for as much as he helped carry the club offensively in April and May, Mitch Moreland has hit a wall at the dish. In his last 23 starts, Moreland has hit a moribund .160, with one double and three home runs. In other words, “Mitchy Two Bags” has morphed into “Mitchy No Bags.”
For the first time in my baseball watching lifetime – which is more years than I would like to admit – the Red Sox are dead last in the American League in home runs hit with 94. And while manager John (Copyright David Price.) will tell you that the offense is built on doubles – they rank third in the AL, but trail the top two teams (Houston and Cleveland) by 37 and 24, respectively – they struggle to drive in the runners who reach in.
Heading into a four-game set against the last-place Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Monday night, the Sox are tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the most runners left on base in all of baseball, with 664. And while Pedroia (.371), Betts (.370) and Andrew Benintendi (.342) all rank in the top ten for the highest average with runners in scoring position in the league; the guy who is getting paid just to hit – mostly because he flat-out refuses to do anything else – Hanley “The Hound” Ramirez is hitting just .183 when he has the opportunity to drive a teammate in.
Over the weekend, the Red Sox bats cost them the opportunity to drive a stake into the heart of a previously nosediving Yankees team. They entered the series losers of 18 of their last 25 games, and on Friday night, they suffered an excruciating loss when their closer Aroldis Chapman walked Benintendi with the bases loaded in the 9th; after starting the frame with a one run lead, and not having one ball hit hard.
On Saturday afternoon, Chris Sale did what he has done practically every time he has taken the mound for his new team – throw an absolute gem – yet, the offense couldn’t even muster an extra-base hit of starter Luis Severino and the New York bullpen.
Then to add insult to injury, last year’s Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello – who looks like he is finally turning the corner when after a rough start to his campaign – pitched perhaps his best game of the season, Sox bats didn’t deliver a single run.
With third base continuing to be an offensive black hole, and Moreland’s falling of dramatically at the plate, the line up is crying out for some sort of shakeup. Even though he likes leading off, Betts is more suited for batting third; which would give him a better opportunity to drive in more runs, something the Sox desperately need.
And manager John and team president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, need to start – if they haven’t already – to make it clear to Ramirez that he needs to either produce, or get stapled to the bench to ponder his piss-poor performance at the plate.
Although there have been rumors – they got particularly more frequent this weekend – about the Red Sox dealing for the White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier – he who is hitting a Deven Marrero-esque, .207 this season – why they would make a move like that, before taking a look at Rafael Devers makes no sense.
Even if defensively they don’t think he is ready to handle third, the way he is capable of swinging the bat – he went 4 for 4, with a home run and a double in his debut with the Paw Sox last week – the Sox would be better suited to see if they have some offense in their system; and if he hits as a DH, the problem that is Hanley the Hound’s lack of production goes away.
The Red Sox are in first place largely due to their pitching. That will only get better if Eduardo Rodriguez is healthy, and can begin to get back to the pitcher he was before he suffered another issue with his kneecap several weeks ago, beginning with his start Monday night against the Jays.
In the meantime, it is up to the manager, to manipulate the batting order to get his offense jump-started; and it may be time for the team president to give the kid the keys to third base, and see if he is the spark the team needs to start scoring runs in the second half.
Follow on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.