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Red Sox report card
(Includes games from Tuesday, Sept. 14 to Monday, Sept. 20)

By Boston.com Staff, 9/21/2004

Overall:

What happened to the streaking Sox? Over the last seven days this team has been in a downward spiral, having dropped three straight games for the first time since early July. Three of the top four starters haven't pitched worth a lick, Sox hitters have been striking out at a baffling pace and the defense has lost all focus. The 3-4 record for the week isn't one of the worst they've posted, but it's a huge contrast to the honor-roll performances from the previous three weeks. The Yankees are back in town this weekend, so there's not much time to get back in a groove. Grade: D
Poll survey: Your grade


Hitting:
Sox hitters went ice-cold during one of the most important stretches of the season, making the Yankees pitching staff look virtually unhittable during the Lost Weekend in the Bronx. Over the last seven games, Boston is batting .251 as a team with 60 hits and 63 strikeouts. Mark Bellhorn and Jason Varitek alone combined for 24 of those K's in 45 at bats. Manny Ramirez is batting at a .130 clip in his last seven games, and three other players with more than 13 at bats over that span were hitting below .200 (Bellhorn, Varitek and Kevin Youkilis). Johnny Damon (.276 batting average, 8 RBIs) and Kevin Millar (.375, 6 RBIs) have been the only two players keeping this offense afloat lately. Grade: D
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Fielding:
The lack of fielding focus that had plagued this team for the better part of the season has returned in a big way. The team officially made four errors in its last seven games, but those don't take into account the number of mental miscues it committed. Some of the lowlights: On a John Olerud grounder back to the mound with one out on Saturday, Derek Lowe chose to throw to third to try to catch Bernie Williams rather than get the easy out at first. Williams was easily safe at third, loading the bases. The next inning, Sox reliever Terry Adams first threw a wild pitch and shortly after failed to cover first on a grounder to the right side of the infield. The worst miscue of all came last night, when Melvin Mora started to trot home from third on a walk to Rafael Palmeiro, thinking that the bases were loaded. He quickly snapped out of it and a rundown followed, with Mora doing a fair impression of the hare to the Sox' tortoises. Boston made five throws to try to get Mora out. Bodies moved everywhere, with Doug Mirabelli ending up at third. Kevin Millar, the first baseman, ended up at home, and center fielder Johnny Damon was backing up first base. The last throw from Mirabelli to Millar didn't connect -- Millar was charged with the error -- and Mora was able to score. Making matters worse for the Sox is that their fielding stud, Orlando Cabrera, missed Monday's game and will be out tonight as well to be with his ailing wife in Colombia. The only thing keeping this grade from being an "F" is Manny Ramirez's spectacular homer-saving catch on Friday night in New York. Grade: D
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Starting pitchers:
Pedro Martinez (16-7 3.69 ERA): In what was easily his worst start of the season, Martinez allowed eight runs over just five innings Sunday, in a game where his team needed him to step up against the Yankees. Instead, New York pounded a trio of home runs off Martinez, who watched his ERA rise from 3.43 to 3.69. It was the second straight loss for Martinez, who opened last week with a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay.

Curt Schilling (20-6 3.40 ERA): In winning his 20th game of the season, Schilling allowed four runs over 7 2/3 innings to the Devil Rays. He has a shot at winning No. 21 tonight against the Orioles and will face a huge shot at redemption against the Yankees this weekend.

Derek Lowe (14-12, 5.19 ERA): Yikes. It wasn't just the worst start of his career (one inning, six earned runs), Lowe's bonehead play, tossing the ball to third, everybody's safe, bases loaded, was typical of the way things went in New York over the weekend. The loss was Lowe's 12th of the season, and easily the ugliest. For Lowe in 2004, that is saying quite a lot.

Tim Wakefield (11-10, 4.96 ERA): Yikes retake. In his latest road bumps, Wakefield suffered the loss last night, allowing seven earned runs against Baltimore, and had a no-decision against the Devil Rays, allowing four runs over five innings. It may be that Wakefield's latest disaster last night might have pitched him out of the October rotation.

Bronson Arroyo (9-9, 4.01 ERA): It wasn't that long ago that you wouldn't believe that the best start of the week came off the arm of Arroyo, but that's the case this week as Arroyo was solid in a no-decision Friday, allowing the Yankees two runs over six innings, in what was eventually a dramatic 3-2 win for Boston. Grade: D+
Poll survey: Your grade

(Record and ERA are through Monday)


Bullpen:
The Sox were forced to go to the bullpen early against Tampa Bay in the first two games after their west coast trip. The results were mixed. Alan Embree gave up two earned runs in trying to salvage the last three innings for Pedro in a 5-2 loss, and Curtis Leskanic gave up a mammoth game-tying home run in the sixth inning the next night. But Mike Myers (2.45 ERA in 3 2/3 innings last week), Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Timlin (no runs in 3 1/3 innings last week), and Keith Foulke did a nice job for 3 2/3 of relief in the 8-6 win. In New York, Embree and Timlin picked up Bronson Arroyo in the opener while the Keith Foulke pitched the ninth for his 30th save in 35 chances, completing the combined four-hitter. Terry Adams (6.23ERA in 4 1/3 innings last week) and Mendoza (four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings last week) were almost as horrific as Derek Lowe on Satruday, giving up six runs between them in the 14-4 Bronx blowout. Pedro Astacio pitched two forgettable innings in the 11-1 hammering the Sox took on Sunday. The 'pen held the line for 3 2/3 last night after another short start from Tim Wakefield, but then Melvin Mora crushed a longball off Foulke in the ninth, which raised Foulke's ERA to 2.00 for the season. Grade: C
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Coaching:

Terry Francona has to be held accountable for the team's recent slide as much as he was given kudos for the August resurgence. The fact that the Red Sox usually lose the first game back after a road trip (Tampa and Baltimore being the victors this past week) must fall at the manager's feet. The sloppy rundown drill last night is something you need to hone in spring training, and beyond apparently. You can argue that he leaves Tim Wakefield in too long so Wake can "find his stuff." You can argue with his strategy, but not his results in a 3-2 win over the Yankees on Friday. But you have to point to the manager when the team threw that momentum out the window by showing up haggard and sloppy for the nationally televised game against the Yankees on Saturday. They had a chance to break the Yankees' back, but instead showed up unprepared to play a major league baseball game. New York jumped on the Sox for nine runs in the first two innings in Lowe's terrible start, and they've been going south ever since. Grade: D
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