THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

They have their work cut out now

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / July 16, 2010

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Sitting in his box on Level 3 of Fenway Park, overlooking the field where his ball club got pounded, 7-2, by the Rangers last night, Red Sox owner John Henry pondered the immediate future of the local nine.

“We have to survive July and all these road games coming up,’’ said Henry. “If we’re still in it Aug. 1, I like our chances.’’

Down the hall from Henry’s box, general manager Theo Epstein considered the situation and said, “We’re still in the middle of things, despite everything that’s happened. If we get our players back, we’ll feel like the ’27 Yankees.’’

That’s nice. But really . . . what’s next? I mean, what else can happen to the 2010 Red Sox? A plague of locusts? BP sponsoring Oil Can Boyd Night? Mel Gibson tossing out a first pitch?

I hate to be negative (really), but when do we come out and admit the obvious?

This just isn’t going to be the Red Sox’ year.

Or to put it in Roger Angell palindrome parlance: Not So Boston.

The fandom can only take so much. It started last winter with Theo talking about building a bridge to nowhere. Then came the awful April. Then it was one bone-cracking episode after another. At the start of last night’s game — the first since the All-Start break — the Sox had 11 players on the disabled list. And that wasn’t counting Adrian Beltre, who could not play because of a strained hamstring suffered last Sunday (a whole other story, but why was Beltre batting in the All-Star Game when he can’t play for the Sox on the bookend dates, Sunday and Thursday?)

So what happened in the first game after the break? Tim Wakefield gave up six consecutive hits and six runs before getting the second out of the first inning.

This one was over before it really got started. The first pitch was at 7:10 and 11 minutes later it was 6-0. Wakefield retired only six batters and the Sox trailed, 7-0, after three.

In an effort to stop the bleeding tonight, the Sox will throw 22-year-old Felix Doubront against the first-place Rangers. Tomorrow it’ll be John Lackey lugging his 4.78 ERA to the Fenway mound.

Keeping things on a positive note, I remind you that after this weekend, the Sox won’t be home again until July 29. They’ll play 10 games in 10 days on the West Coast. The Yankees and Rays, meanwhile, will be fattening up on assorted Orioles, Royals, and Indians. At this hour, the Sox trail the Yankees by six games in the loss column, the Rays by four.

Root for the Yankees to sweep the Rays this weekend. Catching New York is starting to look highly unlikely. The Yanks and Rays have both won eight of 10 and now the Yankees have the extra incentive of Winning One For George.

Sitting in the dugout before last night’s game, his left foot still in a cast, Dustin Pedroia spotted teammate Kevin Cash and said, “Come on, Cash, carry us!’’

Cash went into the game batting .136 with no homers and no RBIs since his acquisition. Terry Francona’s lineup featured Eric Patterson (.217 with the Sox) hitting second, Daniel Nava sixth, Cash ninth, and Bill Hall playing third base.

How are these Red Sox supposed to stay afloat while they wait for their regulars to return? What are the standings going to look like when we come to the trading deadline at the end of the month? The Sox have made the playoffs in six of the last seven years. Are we kidding ourselves to still think of them as contenders in 2010?

“In a lot of ways, this reminds me of 2006,’’ said Henry, referring to the only year in which the Sox did not make the playoffs during his ownership. “It’s been reminding me of 2006 since San Francisco [at the end of June]. This team has a chance to be special. We’re 51-37 with all these injuries. If we get our lineup and rotation back, we should be formidable. It won’t be easy. New York and Tampa are really good teams.’’

“A West Coast trip can be tough,’’ said Epstein. “We have to have a good road trip. We’re starting to get healthy. I’m pleased and surprised that we are as close are we are. Am I kind of proud? Yes.

“We still expect to get hot. I think we’re going to stay in this thing.’’

Francona was no less enthusiastic about his undermanned team.

“When I feel like we’re going in one direction it makes the hiccups easier to deal with,’’ said the manager. “It has not been perfect. We’ve gone through some tough times, but I feel like we’re going in one direction. We fight hard to get that. You can’t just say that. It has to happen and it has happened and I’ve enjoyed that. We had those three tough games in Tampa and got swept and then we went to Toronto and we continue to show up and play and I’ve really enjoyed that.’’

“To tell you the truth, the thing that surprised me most about this team was how badly we played in April,’’ said Epstein.

“We fought through that in April,’’ said Francona. “We don’t know what’s going to happen from here, but I like the way we’re going about our business.’’

They looked awful last night. But they did not quit. They chipped away and put a couple of guys on base in the ninth. It feels like sandbags against a tsunami, but the 2010 Sox are not going away without some resistance.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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