During a losing streak, labeling an individual game is difficult. Saying it was another tough loss is not only obvious but belies the Red Sox struggles as complete and finished. There is danger in tomorrow’s game, one in which the result is yet to be determined. After each loss since about 0-3 we’ve said ‘this is bad,’ but for the most part what have avoided ‘this can get worse.’ The next ten games are all both at Fenway and against division rivals (three vs. New York, three vs. Tampa, and four vs. Toronto). We can make all the jokes we like now about how no 0-6 team has ever gone on to lose 162 games, or no World Series participant has ever been 0-6, but the nature of the next ten games makes them important, if for no other reason than this can get worse.
Six games are not the end of the Red Sox season, but damage is being done, and as Fan Graphs Dave Cameron notes, it is growing late early. Here are a few notes on Thursday’s loss, the sixth in a row and third consecutive to an abominable Cleveland team:
- After a disastrous turn through the rotation, Jon Lester came through with the first good starting pitching performance of the season. Seven innings, no runs and nine strike outs qualifies as such and Lester bettered his mound counterpart in the process.
- Judging by Lester’s pitch f/x data, the cutter was huge for him today. Depending on which site you check for your data, Lester threw the cutter either three or six times his last time out against Texas. Thursday he threw it 32 times, 24 of which went for strikes, the highest strike percentage of any of Lester’s pitches.
- Another difference in Thursday’s game compared to his first start was Lester’s fastball. In the opener in Texas he threw the pitch for strikes 54% of the time (20/37) and induced zero swinging strikes. On Thursday the strike percentage jumped to 68% (28/41) and Indians hitters swung through the pitch twice.
- If you watched both games you probably didn’t need to see all the above numbers to know Lester had better command and control Thursday than in Texas by a factor of roughly a million.
- Just as the pitching comes around the bats go silent. After scoring five runs in three games against an Indians staff guilty of giving up 24 in their first three games, the Red Sox are now hitting a Cashian .181/.269/.275 on the year. It’s difficult to ascribe total culpability to the Red Sox hitters when the Indians pitchers undoubtedly played a role, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Sox are in a team-wide slump.
- Pedroia versus Carmona: 3 at-bats, 15 pitches seen, 9 of them sliders. Result: 0-3. You better believe Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and CC Sabathia are taking notes.
- During the broadcast, Don Orsillo remarked that Daniel Bard’s fastball was a few miles-per-hour slower than it had been his last time out. I checked the data and that is not true. Bard’s average fastball on April 1st was 96.61 mph, his average fastball on the 5th was 96.42 mph, and today (Thursday the 7th) it averaged 96.05 mph. Not too much of a change there. Bard’s velocity is lower than mid-season last year (on July 11th, to pick a date at random, he averaged 98.65 mph against the Blue Jays in Toronto), but it’s early in the year and Bard’s velocity will likely tick up a bit as the season moves along.
- Yesterday’s miscommunication between Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek as to whether or not Youk had tagged third was just that, a miscommunication. Today’s version, Darnell McDonald getting thrown out with two outs in the ninth after rounding second, was stronger and more bone-headed stuff. For a guy holding on to the last roster spot on the bench, McDonald doesn’t have the luxury of making stupid plays. While the loss was in no way solely his fault, running into the last out of the ninth in a one run game is tantamount to getting thrown out trying to steal third in the same game situation. With his speed, the difference between McDonald at second and McDonald at third with two outs is minimal. Dude needed to plant his butt at second, not careen past it like a rally car.
This start is not a death sentence for this season of high expectations. Even so, it’s time to start accumulating on the good side of the ledger, lest it become so. We
can have to start back home in the Fens tomorrow against our old friends, the Yankees.