BALTIMORE – With their 6-0 loss to the Orioles, the Sox have now dropped four of the seven games so far in this stretch of AL East tests, six of nine overall and 12 of their past 19 road games. After being shut out for the third time in that nine game stretch – again dominated by a pitcher that pounded the strike zone – the Sox offense found itself doing some soul searching.
The most telling numbers over this mini-skid that’s seen the Sox fall out of first place after spending 60 straight days perched atop the division are the 2.6 runs the Sox have averaged and the .216 team batting average.
Part of the problem is that the pitchers they’ve faced – from Tampa’s terrifying lefties Matt Moore and David Price earlier this week to Baltimore’s Chris Tillman Saturday night – have controlled at-bats, gotten ahead in counts and gone deep into games, taking the Sox’s hitters out of their approach at the plate.
“We’ve got to adjust to the pitcher on the mound,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “In those games, they’ve attacked the strike zone early. They’ve pitched ahead in the count for the most part.”
Price threw strikes on 78 percent of his 97 pitches. Sixty-eight percent of Moore’s 109 pitches were strikes. Of the 115 pitches Tillman threw on Saturday, 72 went for strikes and after a 22-pitch first inning, Tillman settled in and gave up just two hits over seven frames.
The Sox rarely got themselves into the kinds of counts on which they typically feast.
“I think we really need to get more back to what makes us good: Grinding out at-bats,” said Dustin Pedroia. “I think a lot of guys are trying too hard right now. We’ve got to let the game come to us.
“If a starter’s got great stuff, find a way to get him out of there. We haven’t done that last week or something. So we’ll get back to that tomorrow and start being a better team offensively.”
There are slumps up and down the Sox’s lineup. Jose Iglesias is 3 for his last 24. Stephen Drew is 1 for his last 15. Pedroia is 3 for his last 27. Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2 for 4 day at the plate against the O’s snapped an 0-for-10 skid.
Pedroia said he can sense people pressing.
“There’s times when two or three guys will go in funks and other guys step up,” Pedroia said. “Seems like right now, everybody’s trying to be the guy that gets us out of it. That makes it tough, because then you try to hard and you’re coming out of what makes you good. You’ve got to kind of take a step back and have quality at-bats and pass it to the next guy.”