- Last Updated: 4:58 AM, July 7, 2012
- Posted: 1:45 AM, July 6, 2012
When we New York baseball types last saw the Red Sox, they looked like an April bomb. The “That’s My Boy” of this baseball season.
The Yankees knocked them around so much in two games, souring Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary with a 6-2 triumph on April 20 and then erasing a 9-0 deficit for a 15-9 victory on April 21, it felt as if the gods had displayed mercy when rain wiped out the April 22 finale.
Two and a half months later, Bobby Valentine’s club will welcome the Yankees back to Fenway tonight — kicking off a four-game series — as, well, far less of a disaster. But just as far from the Red Sox of old.
“I still feel good about the team. There are a lot of things going well,” Red Sox first-year general manager Ben Cherington said yesterday in a telephone interview. “We haven’t quite yet hit our stride with a lot of engines humming all at once, but there are a lot of aspects on this team that are encouraging.
“But you are what your record says you are. We’re 42-40. That’s not good enough. We need to win more games.”
Look at it this way: Since the last Yankees-Red Sox game, Boston has posted a 38-30 record. It had gone 36-25, a .590 winning percentage, until a 2-5 West Coast swing through Seattle and Oakland decelerated their rise.
Four of their five most recent losses came by one run.
“It’s very difficult to watch and digest,” Cherington said. “But when you take a step back and look at it objectively, one-run games swing back and forth.”
They do. Yet this entire Red Sox season has swung back and forth quite dramatically. They have made the Yankees, who have lost their closer (Mariano Rivera), two best starting pitchers (CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte) and fastest position player (Brett Gardner) to the disabled list, seem placid in comparison.
Valentine has withstood a flood of injuries and pushed his team back into contention while creating his standard waves. For sure, some loyalists to Terry Francona and/or Theo Epstein, both of whom left after last year’s stunning collapse, have not signed onto the Zen of Bobby V. Nevertheless, the former Mets manager is still standing.
“It’s a great group of guys who are battling through a lot of adversity and change and doing a heck of a job of coming together,” Valentine said last week, at the outset of the road trip. “The pitching staff has been kind of a work in progress. We’ve had a lot of guys in and out, both the bullpen and the starting staff. The lineup, because of injuries and the young players, has been anything but stable, but it’s been extremely productive.”
“He’s our manager. We’re working together,” Cherington said of Valentine, whose hiring was pushed strongly by Boston president Larry Lucchino. “We talk a lot and make decisions together. I don’t think that’s unique.”
For sure, they have not lacked for decisions to make. Dustin Pedroia missed Wednesday’s game with an ailing right thumb, while stud rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks — whose ascension pushed Kevin Youkilis out of town, to the White Sox in a trade — sat out all three games in Oakland with a sore left hamstring. Cherington expressed hope the duo could return to action this weekend.
Jacoby Ellsbury (right shoulder) could be back after the All-Star break, and Carl Crawford (left elbow) is rehabilitating in the minor leagues. Closer Andrew Bailey (right thumb) and starting pitchers Clay Buchholz (esophagitis) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (neck) are all on the disabled list. The Red Sox can make more upgrades than any other American League team simply by getting healthier.
Oh, and David Ortiz told USA Today on Wednesday he felt “humiliated” and “embarrassed” by his one-year, $14.575-million contract.
Otherwise, it has been a quiet Red Sox season.
Yes, the 2012 dynamics of The Rivalry have changed considerably since that April Yankees beatdown. They could change right back, though, if the results don’t go the Red Sox’s way this weekend.