Whether it is a World Series hangover or simply a matter of the early season blues, there’s something definitely wrong with the Boston Red Sox.
Losers of seven of their last 10 games, the Red Sox are playing their worst baseball of the season heading into the first game of the latest installment of their intense rivalry with the New York Yankees.
“We were in trouble on that West coast swing, and we were in trouble these first two games here,” center fielder Johnny Damon said following Wednesday’s 6-1 loss in Toronto. “New York’s climbing. We have to start doing something or it could be a long summer. … We have a big series this weekend. Whether or not the Yankees are going to overtake us or not, we can’t let that happen.”
What Damon feared then became reality on Thursday as the Yankees leapfrogged the Red Sox and moved into second place in the AL East. Boston’s slide continued with an 8-1 loss at the Rogers Centre to complete Toronto’s three-game sweep, while New York was finishing a sweep of visiting Detroit with a 4-3 victory.
Slugger David Ortiz is concerned with Boston’s play.
“We’re struggling all around,” he said. “We’re not hitting, we’re not playing good defense. Sometimes our pitching is not there.”
It wasn’t there Thursday as the Blue Jays jumped all over Red Sox starter Wade Miller for six first-inning runs.
New York knows that tune. The Yankees were 11-19, their worst start after 30 games since 1966, before winning 15 of 17.
“We knew we had a good ballclub, even when we were playing bad,” Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez said.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona wasn’t feeling sorry for them.
“Whoever wrote them off is crazy,” he said. “I bet everybody did, but you know they are going to be good. I wish they weren’t good now. We caught them at the beginning of the season and we’re catching them now.”
Yankees manager Joe Torre said facing the Red Sox now will be different than the first two series between the teams. New York won two of three to start the season and then Boston took two of three in the second week.
“You play a team 19 times, you’re going to run into them now and then,” he said. “We had opening day here and we had opening day there. It’s baseball now. It’s more than when you play someone else, though. We’re ready to play them. We’re comfortable at home right now.
“I feel pretty good about my team, until something changes my mind.”
Torre will send Randy Johnson out to pitch Friday night against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Carl Pavano goes for the Yankees on Saturday against unbeaten Matt Clement with Mike Mussina set for Sunday against David Wells.
Johnson will be pitching with five days rest instead of the four he prefers. Torre is not sure how he will handle that change.
“It’s something he’s not used to doing,” the manager said. “He has to find a way. His next two turns will be on a fifth day. Is he better on four days instead of five? I don’t know. He pitched his perfect game (last year) on the sixth or seventh day.”