One hundred and fifty two.
That’s how many runs the first-place Milwaukee Brewers scored in June – a major league best – en route to an 18-10 month that increased Milwaukee’s lead by 3 1/2 games in the National League Central and cemented the belief that the Brewers are indeed a serious contender in 2014.
One hundred and five? Why, that would be how many runs the last-place Tampa Bay Rays scored last month with one of the weaker offenses and lowest ($77 million) payrolls in all of baseball.
You know where this is headed, don’t you?
School’s out for summer, and based on the latest returns, so may be the Red Sox. After nearly being no-hit Monday night by Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, your Boston Red Sox finished off a lackluster month of June in which they went only 12-16 and scored a grand total of 84 runs. That was the lowest total in the American League by a wide margin. Thirteen runs separated the Red Sox from the White Sox, who managed to score 97 times…in two fewer games.
Boston hit .230 for the month, better only than the in-town Cubs (.227) and San Diego Padres, who hit a ghastly .171 and somehow scored only 60 runs. The Sox had a collective .643 OPS, worst in the AL. They grounded into 28 double plays, most in the league.
Stephen Drew joined the party on June 2, when the Red Sox had won seven in a row and looked like they might pull themselves out of the hole they created for themselves with a 10-game losing streak in May. He hit .143 for the month, his lone offensive highlight coming Monday when he broke up Arrieta’s no-hitter in the eighth inning.
Just Drew’s luck. Even when he gets a hit, it’s one that half the fans probably didn’t want to see.
Despite the Red Sox’ offensive troubles, that doesn’t discount the fact that Arrieta, who took a perfect game into the eighth inning against the Reds just last week, was nasty Monday night, the latest impressive start in what has been thus far an underrated season for the Chicago righty. How do you allow 13 earned runs over 11 starts and yet are only 5-1 on the season? Cubs, I guess, is the easy answer. That’s how.
The Red Sox haven’t been no-hit since Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio pulled the trick in Seattle in 1993. They haven’t been the victims at Fenway since 1958 when Detroit’s Jim Bunning no-hit a team that finished the season with a .256 batting average and a 79-75 record.
It would have been fitting to see the hapless Red Sox offense receive the ultimate tribute to their blundering bats to close out the month. Even wunderkind Mookie Betts wasn’t saving the Red Sox on this night.
After all, rock bottom can eventually become a comfortable place once you realize you’re settled there for good.
But, no. Despite their hideous ability to score runs, Boston lost all of a half-time in the AL East standings last month. A half-game. Jon Lester (4-1, 1.98 ERA for the month) pitched them to within 6 games of the first-place Blue Jays on June 1, and 30 days later they sit only 6 1/2 games out of the division lead. Forget all the projections that say the Red Sox need to go 52-27 the remainder of the way in order to win 90 games. Hell, in this division, 85 wins may do the trick.
But as June seeps into July, and Ben Cherington continues to sit and wait for his offense to turn things around before making a move to fix things, the Red Sox continue to flaunt their deficiencies like a mallet to the head. Perhaps being no-hit would have been the impetus for Larry Lucchino to march into his general manager’s office and tell him, “Look, the Betts idea is cute, but make a deal for a bat. Today.”
If the defending World Series champs do find themselves out off the running for a playoff spot, they can look back to the pathetic month of June as a turning point. The Red Sox said goodbye to the failed Grady Sizemore experiment, Xander Bogaerts hit only .135 for the month; David Ortiz, .223; A.J. Pierzynski, .173; Jackie Bradley, Jr., .208. Drew had a .360 OPS for the month. Josh Beckett’s OPS was .364 out in Los Angeles.
The Red Sox did spend the better portion of the month without their hitting coach, Greg Colbrunn, who suffered a brain hemorrhage on June 4 during a road trip in Cleveland, but it’s not like Boston’s offense was sparkling prior. They were 27-31 with Colbrunn, 11-14 without him.
Of the 84 runs the Sox scored in June, remember, 10 came in a bustout game against the Indians at Fenway Park, and another eight were scored in Sunday’s win at Yankee Stadium. Take those two outliers out of the equation, and Boston scored an average of 2.54 runs per game during the month. They were shut out four times over 28 games, scored one run three times, two runs nine times, and three runs three times. They scored more than three runs only nine times over the course of the month.
Yes, a no-hitter would have capped things off nicely indeed. Instead, maybe there’s a message embedded somewhere there, a plea to rectify things immediately before the Red Sox waste a talented pitching staff’s efforts with their refusal to upgrade the likes of Drew, Pierzynski, or Bradley, all three of whom are killing Boston’s hopes of respectability on a nightly basis.
Or, maybe it just means rock bottom is still coming.
Welcome to July. No matter what happens, this team is going to look awfully different, for better or worse, in 30 days.