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2014 Red Sox: 4.9 Million Turning Points And Counting

Mookie Better

Search 2014 Red Sox turning point on Google and you'll get about 4.9 million hits. At least I did Sunday night.

The latest 2014 Red Sox turning point occurred Saturday and Sunday at Yankee Stadium as the Red Sox strung back-to-back victories to close out an otherwise terrible road trip.

The Red Sox mathematically entered the second half of the season with Game 82 Sunday night. The malaise that grips the A.L. East and empty calories of the second wild card mean that Boston remains in legitimate postseason contention despite sitting six games under .500 and six games out of first place on the final day of June.

But they're only five back in the loss column.

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The most telling Red Sox quotes of the weekend game from the lips of GM Ben Cherington, who said the team was still focused on 2014 and not 2015. "The deficit is something we can overcome. We feel we can be a good team this year so that’s what we’re concentrating on. If that picture changes, it changes, but that’s not where we are right now," he said, according to The Boston Globe.

That could apply to the deficit in the standings or the deficit in offensive production. Both are glaring, but the sterility of the lineup is far more pressing.

Sunday night's 8-5 win offered a rare 2014 example where the Red Sox provided enough offense on the road to overcome a pedestrian starting pitching performance.

For once, John Lackey got the offensive support he didn't deserve.

While much has been made about Lackey's issues when A.J. Pierzynski is catching, his ERA when David Ross is doing commentary for ESPN is 18.00. Pierzynski tried to punch a hole in the ceiling of the Red Sox dugout after he struck out Sunday. His right hand healed enough to where added a single later on for a rare "two-hit" effort.

The Red Sox, for the record, took two out of three in New York. They followed Saturday's 2-1 thriller with an lumbering, cumbersome victory that consumed 3:44 off the clock. Another 20 minutes and they would have gone to penalty kicks.

Back-to-back wins at Yankee Stadium. When do playoff tickets go on sale?

We're again brought back to the wise words of Bane.

"So, as I terrorize Gotham, I will feed its people hope to poison their souls."

The "second wild card" has become the hope that poisons the souls of baseball fans throughout America each summer. There are eight teams standing between the Red Sox and that "second wild card." This year's "second wild card" in New England will be the AL East title.

There's plenty of terror to be unleashed across the AL East over the next three months.

Call it baseball's "Group of Dearth."

The Red Sox averaged 2.9 runs per game in June before Sunday. They scored eight runs to raise that average to 3.03 for the month. Theo Epstein's last-place Cubs come to Fenway Park to begin a 1918 World Series rematch Monday night.

Your 2014 Red Sox could be poised to make a run in July and return to .500 and/or first place, whichever comes first. They could also be poised to make a run at Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox remain perfect with Mookie Betts on their roster. Betts broke Twitter with his first major-league hit Sunday night. That cut Pete Rose's all-time deficit to 4,255. The ESPN telecast showed his happy parents cheering in the stands at Yankee Stadium and his mom taking pictures. Betts was then promptly thrown out trying to steal second base. Rickey Henderson can sleep soundly.

Out of position in right field, Betts misplaced Ichiro's low liner and turned it into a triple in the fifth. Trot Nixon he is not.

David Ortiz smote a 91-MPH Chase Whitley fastball Sunday for his his 450th career home run. It was a three-run ICBM in the third inning that landed deep in the right field bleachers. It was Ortiz' 19th home run of 2014 and came on his 339th plate appearance. It's exactly where he stood last season after 339 plate appearances. That's where the offensive similarities fizzle.

After 339 plate appearances in 2013, Ortiz boasted a slash line of .322/.404./.610 and had 65 RBI. Entering Sunday's game, he had come to the plate 336 times. His line of .253/.354/.479 produced an OPS of .833, which is .181 lower than last year's. His home run Sunday produced RBIs No. 50, 51 and 52.

Ortiz had produced a recitation of excuses for his decline in stats to rival that of Jake Blues.

There was the scorekeeper, the schedule, the weather and the fact that there are fewer baserunners when he's on base. We haven't heard "locusts" yet, but give it time. We're still in June.

The Grady Sizemore experiment proved that size does matter, especially when you're talking batting average, runs scored and OPS. Stephen Drew entered Sunday night's game with one hit in his previous 32 at-bats. Dustin Pedroia's slugging percentage was .377 after 82 games this season. It was .433 on June 30 last year.

The major problem of this team remains offensive production. This is how the defending World Champions ushered in the summer on June 21. It epitomized much of their season.

Last night's rout marked just the second time in the past 32 games where the Red Sox scored eight or more runs.

But just wait until the warm weather arrives.

The Red Sox have won 21 times this season following a loss. Each one was its own mini-turning point. Eash win offered a glimmer of hope that the Duck Boats may not be mothballed until February, after all.

Some turning points carried more weight than others.

The most notable turning point of the season came on Memorial Day, when the Red Sox ended that 10-game slide with an 8-6 win at Atlanta. Boston trailed 6-3 in the sixth inning of that game before, you guessed it, Ortiz hit a three-run homer to tie it. Boston endured a lengthy rain delay before scoring a pair in the seventh. That win was followed by six more before the team's next loss.

June had more "turning points" than the Bourne Bridge Rotary.

On June 8, Ortiz homered in the ninth and John Lackey threw eight solid innings as the Red Sox beat Detroit 5-3 to snap a five-game losing streak. Ten days later, Ruby "Don't Call Me Pedro" De La Rosa stabilized the unrest across Red Sox Nation by throwing seven shutout innings in a 1-0 victory over Minnesota at Fenway Park.

Boston lost its first three games in Oakland before a 7-6 win in 10 innings last Sunday. Koji Uehara got the win in that one despite giving up two home runs in the ninth. As much of America watched Team USA lose to Portugal 2-2, Ortiz homered in the top of the 10th to bail out the Red Sox closer. In Seattle, the Red Sox dropped two straight to open that series. Then Clay Buchholz got the win in the series finale.

Think about that for a second: "Clay Buchholz got the win."

It's enough to make you think "October baseball."

When he spoke Saturday, Cherington took public responsibility for not replacing the lost productivity of Jacoby Ellsbury. Coming into this season, the Red Sox and their dutiful minions across State Run Media told us this was the year that Jackie Bradley Jr. would morph into Fred Lynn, if not Coco Crisp.

Hasn't happened.

The rapid rise of everyman Brock Holt has been a nice distraction. But Holt's arrival was barely noticed and he was ticketed for demotion once Drew returned.

That hasn't happened either.

Eighty-three games into the season, the Red Sox remain a team that has either yet to find his identity, or is unwilling to recognize it. Will they be buyers? Will they be sellers? The thought of the Red Sox being "sellers" given the paucity of punch in the the AL East and the never-ending need for NESN viewers is about as likely as Liverpool's Luis Suarez becoming the new spokesman for Delta Dental.

The Red Sox now must go 43-37 over their final 80 games just to finish at .500. If you're thinking 85 wins, they need to play at a .580 clip for the rest of the season.

Do you still want 90 wins? That would mean .641 baseball over the next 90 days from a team that hasn't seen first place since April 3 or .500 since May 15.

Give the track record of these 2014 Red Sox, the odds of that happening seem to be about 4.9 million-to-1.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
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