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Looking deeper at the Red Sox slump

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  August 18, 2011 01:18 PM

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KANSAS CITY The Red Sox were 64-30 from April 16 to July 31. Throw in the 2-10 start and they were still on a pace to win 101 games.

Pretty impressive. Also pretty unrealistic.

As good as the Red Sox are, winning 101 games is a difficult chore that requires good health, the ability to avoid long slumps and even a favorable schedule.

The health part was there for a while. But when Clay Buchholz went down and then Jon Lester missed a few weeks, it put a strain on the bullpen. Matt Albers (6 ER in his last 7.2 innings over 6 appearances) looks like a guy who needs a rest. Alfredo Aceves, meanwhile, is 6.2 innings away from reaching his career high of 84 and it's Aug. 18.

Then Marco Scutaro hurt his back. Then Kevin Youkilis hurt his back. Then David Ortiz hurt his right heel. That's a third of the lineup that was putting up the best production in the game.

There also has been some statistical regression. Adrian Gonzalez had a .593 slugging percentage through June 30. His career average coming into this season was .507. He also had 71 RBIs through 80 games.

Since July 1, his slugging percentage is .447 and he has 19 RBIs in 39 games. His batting average has dropped a bit (.352 to .340) but the power has plunged.

I don't believe Gonzalez's occasionally sore neck has entirely caused this or that the Home Run Derby ruined his swing. I just don't think it was likely he was going to hit .352 and slug .593 all season. Since 2006, only three players have done that. He's going to get it going again, probably sometime soon.

Dustin Pedroia had a ridiculous July (.411/.465/.723) and now he's floating back to earth a little in August (.276/.323/.362). Josh Reddick looked like Roy Hobbs for a while in July. Now he has three hits in his last 26 at-bats.

The catchers provided a lot of unexpected offensive punch in June and July. Now they're hitting like catchers again. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit .304 with a .918 OPS from June 1 to July 31. He has hit .162 with a .584 OPS since. Jason Varitek went from .240 with an .828 OPS in June and July to .143 and .503 in August.

Then there's the schedule. The Sox are in the middle of a stretch that will see them play 14 of 17 games on the road with all of those games outside of the Eastern time zone. The three home games were played in a span of 27 hours and 28 minutes against James Shields, Jeff Niemann and David Price.

Mix it all up and you have an 8-8 August with losses in five of the last seven games.

The good news: Things have been a mess of late and they're a half-game out of first place. Good players will be good players again. These last few weeks are the anomaly.

The bad news: Eight road games in the next eight days against improved Kansas City and a tough Texas team.

The Sox were tested when they started 2-10 and they got an A+. Now they're being tested again. They're hurt, they're not hitting and the schedule stinks.

Great teams rise above it and it has to start with Josh Beckett tonight. The Sox emerged from 2-10 one game at a time. That's what it takes now.

There are 40 games left. Win 23 or 24 of those and that should be enough to hold off the Yankees and get home field for the AL playoffs.

As we've seen, this team is certainly capable of that.

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