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Ghosts of 1997 return for Red Sox

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  September 19, 2012 11:38 PM

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox, at 68-82, are officially a losing team for the first time since 1997.

Before crying about it, here's something to consider: The Sox averaged 91.8 victories over the previous 14 seasons, with eight postseason appearances and two World Series titles.

The Yankees, counting this season, have 20 winning seasons in a row. That was the only streak longer than Boston’s. Nobody else was closer.

So crying about 2012, as bad it is, is a little disingenuous. It was bound to happen eventually.

Anyway, let's survey the wreckage from Wednesday's 13-3 loss. Covering this team is like working for FEMA:

• Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6) has allowed 20 earned runs on 24 hits and nine walks over his last 13 1/3 innings. He has pitched less than four innings in four of his last six starts.

The righthander was asked whether he should remain in the rotation. After a long pause, Matsuzaka murmured an answer to interpreter Jeff Cutler.

“That’s a hard question to answer,” he said. “I still haven’t really taken in what happened today.”

It won’t be difficult to analyze. Matsuzaka gave up nine hits, two of them home runs by Jeff Keppinger and Carlos Pena in the fourth inning as his earned run average climbed to 7.68 this season. He lost a 3-1 lead.

“He threw the ball down the middle. They hit it hard, like they should,” manager Bobby Valentine said.

With two days off coming up, the Sox can skip Matsuzaka’s next start at the very least. They should probably just sit him down for good.

• Daniel Bard walked the first two batters he saw to load the bases in the sixth inning. Luke Scott had a sacrifice fly and Jeff Keppinger an RBI single. When Bard walked Matt Joyce to load the bases, Andrew Miller came in and walked Pena and Molina to force in two runs.

“It was tough to look at,” Valentine said.

Bard has walked 71 in 90 1/3 innings this season, counting his time with Triple A Pawtucket. He also has hit 18 and thrown 10 wild pitches.

“He says he really wants to pitch,” Valentine said. “We’re trying to get him where he can have some kind of good feeling about this season at the end. It’s tough.”

Losing seasons are one thing. But what happened to Bard is the real crime of 2012. You have to wonder whether he'll be a viable pitcher down the road at this point.

• Mike Aviles did not play for the fourth consecutive game. With the Red Sox getting a long look at rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias, Aviles has been left to rot despite solid play over the first five months of the season. Iglesias is 2 of 35 (.057) with 10 strikeouts. “Pretty hard,” Valentine said. “Mike really wants to play and I understand that totally. … It’s tough, though, really tough.”

• Third-string catcher Guillermo Quiroz, obtained from Seattle on Sept. 4, finally got in the game, catching the final two innings. He is the 56th player used by the Sox this season, a team record.

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