THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Badly in need of something

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / April 10, 2011

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Now what?

Can the Red Sox summon savior Yaz to throw out another first pitch? Drop Carl Crawford to ninth in the order? Or perhaps this would be a good time to sign Manny Ramirez to a one-day contract so he can tell us how much he loved it here and retire as a Red Sox.

Anything to take our eyes off this train-wreck start for the “Best Team Ever’’ — the one that was going to win 100 games and return to the World Series.

It was bombs away at Fenway again yesterday as the Yankees hit four more home runs, throttling Clay Buchholz and the Sox, 9-4.

The man standing between the Sox and a 1-8 record is Josh Beckett. In five starts against the Yankees last season, Beckett had an ERA of 10.04 and gave up nine homers in 26 innings. The Yankees tonight will counter with CC Sabathia, who won 21 games last season.

So now the question becomes, “We couldn’t all have been wrong about these guys, could we?’’ Granted, this isn’t football, where one loss can dash all hope. Eight games is a small sample in a baseball season, but as of 5 p.m. yesterday your Red Sox were the worst team in baseball. Could they actually be a bad team?

“I’m not going to give a daily referendum on the team,’’ an agitated general manager Theo Epstein said as he stood outside the clubhouse. “We need to play better. We’ve got to find a way to pitch better.’’

Does he still think this is a good team?

“Yeah. There’s a lot of talent here. We’ve got to find a way to get it settled in and start to play up to that talent.’’

The Sox have coughed up an amazing 19 homers while hitting only five. John Henry’s going to need to hire a whiplash specialist to treat the hurlers and infielders who risk damage every time another laser shoots over their heads. Please do not blame the new pitching coach or the new catcher. It’s simply a case of too many fat pitches. The Sox have offered up more meatballs than Bertucci’s.

We are saddled with a sudden fear that everyone around here badly overrated the capability of the Boston mound corps. Did anyone expect to see Tim Wakefield mopping up four times in the first eight games? The humanity!

Remember how we laughed at the Yankees’ pitching problems all winter? Granted, Phil Hughes has lived down to expectations, but the Gotham staff looks significantly better than Boston’s at this alarming hour.

The reeling Rays can’t get here fast enough. Maybe it’s time for Theo to shake things up and trade Kendrick Perkins.

Think about this: The Yankees scored in five consecutive innings Friday and four straight yesterday. Boston’s team ERA stands at 7.09 and the pitch counts have been even more ridiculous.

Dustin Pedroia, who had three hits yesterday, said, “We’ve got to pitch better, man. They have a great offense, but it’s hard to score 10 runs.’’

Ouch. An unsolicited rip. Clearly, frustration is building within the walls of the Boston clubhouse.

“We’re not even two turns through our rotation,’’ said ever-calm manager Terry Francona. “I don’t think we’re going to pack it in. We need to get better . . . We’ve got a pretty veteran team. We all want to do well. Sometimes the other team has something to do with it.

“There’s a difference between being concerned and trying to do better, and panicking and doing something you’re not supposed to.’’

Boston’s hitters are not without blame. The Sox were a robust 1 for 17 with men in scoring position yesterday. Crawford is hitting .152, Kevin Youkilis .125, Jacoby Ellsbury .156, Jarrod Saltalamacchia .182. Throw in shortstop Marco Scutaro (.143) and you’ve got more than half of the regular lineup significantly south of the Mendoza Line.

“I don’t think it’s dire,’’ said Youkilis. “I think we’ve got a chance. I like this team a lot. For me, I don’t think this game [tonight] is critical. When does it stop being early? When we’ve played 81 games, half a season.’’

“We’re eight games in,’’ added Adrian Gonzalez. “We definitely didn’t think we were going to be in this position, but we’re going to recover fine. Look at this team. If that doesn’t give you guys confidence, then you shouldn’t be here.’’

At the beginning of spring training, Beckett talked about these Red Sox winning 100 games. Now the manager is saying, “I think we feel like we’re gonna have a good team,’’ and getting to .500 feels like climbing Kilimanjaro.

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

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