In April, the entire lineup was filled with clutch hitters. The Sox batted .310 with runners in scoring position and averaged more than five runs a game. In May, however, they’ve collectively turned into Duane Kuiper in those situations, batting just .176, with the result being an anemic 3.8 runs a game.
Same hitters, different results. So what gives?
“The approach is there,” said hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. “As long as we continue to put ourselves into those type of situations, we’ll be fine. The approach is the same, but when you stop hitting, it gets magnified. You go through stretches where you hit the ball hard and have nothing to show for it.”
The Red Sox are clearly in the midst of something offensively as they prepare to open a three-game set at Tampa Bay tonight. They went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position in Sunday’s 12-4 loss to the Blue Jays, completing a series in which they went just 3-for-36 with a chance to drive in runs.
That’s not to say they didn’t put some good swings on the ball. In Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Twins, DH David Ortiz went 0-for-5, but scorched the ball three times, including a liner to first to end the game. On Sunday, Dustin Pedroia stepped to the plate with two on in the third and grounded sharply to short for an easy, inning-ending double play.
“Pedroia hit the ball hard, right on the button, did everything right, and it ends up being a one-hopper and a double play,” Colbrunn said. “And so you’re saying, ‘Oh, no, another tying situation.’ We have to continue to stay confident and as long as the approach doesn’t change, then keep doing what you’re doing.”
I understand the Sox look like crap lately. They are 4-8 to start the month of May. But some of the reaction is a little over the top. Many have started to question if this is the same 2012 team all over again, just because of this latest slump. Yes it's quite the slump, but I can assure you this is a completely different ballclub than the 69-win chumps in '12.
People, you have to remember that this is a 162-game season. Even the best teams go through slumps. It's normal baseball. Like the article points out: sometimes you hit the snot out of the ball and it goes for a double off the wall and other times, it sails directly into a fielder's glove like a magnet. That's baseball.
However, the approach at the plate for the majority this season has been night and day compared to last year. The offense has glaringly improved. They are more patient taking pitches and not swinging wildly. Most importantly, they have produced timely, clutch hits.
Let's hope the off day in sunny Florida helped refresh the Sox. They're going to need it against an always difficult and talented division rival in the Rays. As long as the Sox bats maintain the approach at the plate they displayed in April, this offense will be fine. Now the bullpen...well that's another story...
Rest of the links- Herald: Johnny Gomes: Ray of hope after Devilish start | CSNNE.com: Red Sox off-day a break from 10-game slide | CSNNE.com: Report: Victorino not seriously hurt in collision | Globe: Red Sox are struggling with men on base | Projo: For Red Sox, long relievers are a thing of the past