Clearly, it’s far too early to start freaking out about wild cards, playoff positioning, and whatnot, with six more head-to-head meetings remaining between the Red Sox and Yankees, a pair of series that will ultimately determine which team gets the AL East crown.
What we saw last night in Texas has to be a little concerning for anyone with the “as long as they get in” motto. Heck, what we’ve seen from the Red Sox at Rangers Ballpark, where they are now 2-11 since 2009, in recent history has to be downright frightening. Tony Massarotti broke down the numbers yesterday, and they’re gruesome from a Boston perspective:
In their last 12 road games against Texas, Sox pitchers have posted a 6.48 ERA while allowing a whopping 128 hits and 25 home runs in just 100 innings. Texas batters have hit .317 against the Red Sox while posting stratospheric OPS of .968.
On average, this means the Sox have been facing someone akin to Miguel Cabrera or Adrian Gonzalez.
In every at-bat.
There are a slew of gaudy stats in the Rangers’ favor, but here’s one that’s eye-popping: In 10 at-bats, Rangers slugger Mike Napoli has a 1.945 OPS vs. Boston this season. In 90 career at-bats, it’s .977, the highest mark with that many plate appearances against any team. Rangers hurlers, meanwhile, have pitched to the tune of a 2.25 ERA when they face the Sox this season. Granted, much of the numbers are a little misleading thanks the Red Sox’ dreadful start to the season in Texas, but how much is fluke and how much is straight owning?
In other words, what if that 2-10 stretch wasn’t only a bad start, but also the product of a team the Red Sox simply can not beat?
The good news is that the Red Sox have six more games to try and right the ship against the Rangers, three more this week and three at Fenway over Labor Day weekend. The bad news is…good God, they play these guys six more times?
The Fenway series will come on the heels of a three-gamer against the Yanks in Boston, arguably the toughest stretch the Red Sox will have to face on the schedule the remainder of the season. There is no make-or-break for the playoffs, that’s a virtual certainty barring an epic ’78-like collapse down the stretch. But the wild card is getting Texas in the ALDS, and frankly, you’d like to see Boston beat the Rangers once before any semblance of comfort level takes over, assuring you that the Sox can take three-out-five come October. Yes, Verlander is scary too (19 wins – look out, Bob Welch), and having a Pedro-esque type of season, but the Tigers face a much more manageable hurdle in getting to the ALCS.
Boston is also 5-1 against Detroit this season. The next time it beats Texas will be the first.
John Lackey tries to give some hope to the cause tonight, taking his 22.50 2011 ERA vs. Texas to the mound. If that’s not fair, keep in mind that Lackey’s career ERA at Rangers Ballpark is a nifty 6.78 in 17 starts. In 34 starts against the Rangers, it’s 6.07. He has faced the Rangers more than any other team in his career, and that is the highest ERA against any with more than one start.
Feel comfortable with that as a No. 3 starter in the ALDS?
This year, the division crown is much more than a flag to wave like some sort of ridiculous 16-0 banner. It’s not “as long as they get in” as much as it is “avoid Texas at all cost.” And the remainder of this week and next are sure to provide a fascinating glimpse into how the Red Sox respond, and ultimately what their fate just might be.
It’s too early to worry. Clearly.
But how’s 8:05 tonight to start?