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Offense more miss than hit

Batters need to get back in swing

By Ben Collins
Globe Correspondent / June 20, 2009
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A few hours after perhaps the tipping point of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s season - the latest of several bad outings - Red Sox players expected to be asked about their struggling starter.

But it was harder for them to answer questions about the Sox’ offense, which entered the night fourth in the majors in runs.

“It’s no big deal,’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “We didn’t win because we didn’t swing the bats good.’’

The Sox have scraped together only three hits and three runs in their last two games. There have been no rallies; all of the runs came off homers. And both opposing starters had been warding off bullpen demotions - Florida’s Ricky Nolasco improved to 3-6 after Thursday night’s rain-shortened 2-1 win over the Sox, and last night, Atlanta’s Kenshin Kawakami (4-6) stifled the Sox for six innings in an 8-2 victory at Fenway Park.

There are some built-in excuses here. How about the weather? Two days ago, rain kept the Sox inside with no rhythm, awaiting a game that would be cut to five innings. They didn’t have batting practice Thursday, and they had to move it up yesterday to avoid the rain.

“If we had been up, 5-0, that game and the rain came down and we won, it would have been a whole different story about how great the offense is,’’ said Jason Bay.

The altered schedule didn’t affect Bay last night. His two-run homer was the Sox’ only offense.

“Thank God for Jason Bay,’’ Pedroia quipped.

“But we’ve gone through the rain and the scheduling stuff before,’’ Bay said. “It won’t be the last time.’’

Maybe Kawakami, who gave up two earned runs and two hits, simply has Boston’s number. Kawakami also beat Matsuzaka in spring training, giving up four hits and two earned runs to a similar lineup.

“It was a completely different time,’’ said Bay. “That probably had no bearing on what was going on [last night].’’

Sox manager Terry Francona saw a pitcher who knew how to take advantage of an offense that couldn’t find a spark.

“He had enough on his fastball to get it by us and good offspeed pitches,’’ Francona said. “When you pitch like that and you command the strike zone and you change speeds - that’s what pitching is about.’’

And, really, that’s all it was. The Sox saw two tough pitchers finding a midseason groove, and they didn’t have the offense or the pitching to fight that off two nights in a row.

“We don’t make excuses,’’ said Pedroia. “We’re going to go out and swing the bats better tomorrow.’’

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