Today will be a better day for the Boston Red Sox. They can’t lose.

The Sox are in the midst of a brutal stretch, having wasted their two best starts of the season — including one of Josh Beckett’s best starts ever — and given back all the ground they’d gained in the AL East during their six-game winning streak. The team that could never say die has done so five straight games.

This is what happens when the luck runs out and the comebacks disappear. The striking similarity between the Sox’ six-game winning streak and their subsequent five-game losing streak is that in each case the ballclub was usually needing a late rally. In the last 11 games, the Sox have outscored opponents 51-48. They beat opponents by a collective 12 runs in the first six games, but eight of those came in one victory. They’ve been outscored by nine runs in the last five. In each case, that’s an average of just a two-run margin per game.

In the first six, the Sox had the bats to dig out their shaky starters. Now the reverse is true. No power. No punch. Just pathetic ineptitude against the Tampa Bay Rays, whose bullpen used to cure all ills. There was no Mother’s Day Miracle in Tampa this weekend. Just a pair of undeserved losses for Boston’s version of the Killer B’s — Buchholz and Beckett.

Things look bleak, as they often do in the midst of a losing streak. Three Red Sox relievers have an ERA under four — Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and David Aardsma. That’s the same number of relievers who have an ERA over five (Manny Delcarmen, Mike Timlin and Julian Tavarez). The last six times the Sox’ bullpen has entered the game, its given up at least one run. For the season, it sports a hefty 5.31 ERA and .809 OPS against. This is clearly the No. 1 concern for the Red Sox right now.

There’s still a bright side. Sox batters have a combined 116 OPS+, they still have the most wins in the AL East despite a barrage of illness and injury that could have left them all but incapacitated on the field. Most importantly for the rest of the season, the call-ups have generally been terrific (in fact, the possibility exists for an all-homegrown starting infield if Moss gets the start at first base before Lowell is activated) — especially the hot prospects Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson.

The key pieces — offense and starting pitching — seem to be there. They just need to put them together at the same time — and find a middle reliever who can keep runners off the bases. Still a lot of time left, and the Red Sox are going home. For today at least, they can’t lose.

11 comments… add one
  • I don’t follow the Sox closely other than to glance at boxscores, but it seems that whenever I do watch a Sox game that Mike Timlin enters, they implode. He seems to be the Beantown Farnsworth. Don’t know if loyal sfs who actually follow every game think he is as bad as he seems to me to be, but I like when he comes in.

    IronHorse (yf) April 28, 2008, 11:09 am
  • I love Timlin, despite all of my recent girlfriends being in love with him, but Francona keeps using him in close games. What happened to using guys fresh off the DL in blowouts, and not tie/1-run games?

    Atheose April 28, 2008, 11:15 am
  • And so, inside of two weeks, the Sox have broken both the regular-season winning and losing streaks of last year. Streakeriffic.

    Devine April 28, 2008, 11:18 am
  • The bullpen management has been really strange from Francona lately.
    Putting Lopez in to start the seventh in Masterson’s game was a terrible move, and after three weeks of pulling starters on the first baserunner after hitting 100 pitches, he leaves Buchholz in for a full eighth and runs his count past 110 despite Okajima and Papelbon both fresh and warming? Two wins I firmly believe we could have had.
    Of course the Red Sox had chances to win both those games, and the bats fell through, so it’s clearly not all on Tito.

    Paul SF April 28, 2008, 11:28 am
  • The world’s smallest violin – let me play it for you.

    yankeemonkey April 28, 2008, 12:55 pm
  • I normally hate off-days, but we need one today.

    Atheose April 28, 2008, 12:58 pm
  • I would also not be surprised to see the Sox really struggle at times, to acquire three-game losing streaks at an alarming rate.
    Well that’s already a five gamer and a three gamer, and we aren’t even out of April yet. Damn my prognisticatory skills!

    SF April 28, 2008, 1:20 pm
  • to even compare Timlin to Farnsworth should result in one being submitted to Saddam Husseins gas chambers.
    Mike Timlin has had a great career and is in the home tretch.
    Kyle Farnsworth sucks, has always sucked and will always suck.

    TJ April 28, 2008, 11:45 pm
  • TJ: I can’t believe I am about to defend Kyle Farnsworth, but here goes:
    The only thing that matters right now is not the history of the two pitchers but how they are pitching and will pitch this year.
    So far this year:
    KF: 12 IP, 13 H, 5 ER, 12 SO, 3.65 ERA, 1.359 WHIP
    MT: 6 IP, 14 H, 9 ER, 2 SO, 13.5 ERA, 2.833 WHIP
    So not only is it fair for me to compare the two, but Kyle is significantly more reliable. And he is also 10 years younger than Timlin.
    It is entirely legitimate for you to say that these are two guys in very different parts of their careers and that Farnsworth was not comparable to Timlin over the prime portion of their respective careers, but as they are filling pretty much the same exact roles for their respective bullpens (7th inning relievers sharing time with other 7th inning relievers), it is also legitimate for me to compare them and say that any major league manager would take KF over MT in that role right now.

    IronHorse (yf) April 29, 2008, 9:46 am
  • I bet you died a little inside typing that, IH. I know I did reading it.

    Atheose April 29, 2008, 9:55 am
  • I’m rotting slowly from the inside Atheose…
    For my next trick, I’ll be comparing Ian Kennedy to Barry Zito favorably. Just ignore that Cy Young thing…

    IronHorse (yf) April 29, 2008, 10:05 am

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