Each spring 30 teams dream of a World Series championship. And as the year unfolds, the domain shrinks until finally, at the end of October, just one remains. The 2019 Red Sox dreams were stronger than most others. They had, after all, just completed the journey and could envision doing it again. We all could see it.
No championship team reasonably expects to repeat as the ultimate winner. Championships are mostly about excellent play, but also about things you don’t fully control, like player health, the ability to make good deals to shore up for inevitable weaknesses, and the performance of your nearest competition.
Just a week after the Red Sox rode high, taking three of four games from the Yankees, the the team with the best record in baseball, the Sox chances to defend their championship have gone from probable to unlikely.
A week like no other
It wasn’t just an ordinary bad week for the Red Sox; it was a colossally bad one. After an off-day last Monday, Boston started with three straight home losses to the Rays, one of those important, nearby competitors. In the middle of that came news that the Sox front office chose to do nothing at the Trade Deadline, the last chance to shore up for a spotty and overworked bullpen.
Then came the Beatdown in the Bronx. Four straight poundings gave back Boston’s gains of the last weekend, with interest. The four-game sweep, the first dealt to Boston by New York since 2009, came at the hands of Yankee no-names like Mike Ford, Breyvic Valera, and Kyle Higashioka. Big names like Luke Voit, who has pummeled the Sox this season, as well as Gary Sánchez, and Giancarlo Stanton have all been sidelined with injuries.
Sunday’s lineup featured Didi Gregorius for the first time in the series but not Boston basher Edwin Encarnación, whose wrist was fractured by Sox pitcher Josh Smith in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Aaron Hicks, now down with a flexor strain in his right elbow, also missed the series finale.
But it didn’t matter. The Yankees’ makeshift lineup absolutely pounded David Price, who after recording the two outs in the second inning, allowed—in order—a home run, two doubles, a single, another double, another single, and a walk before Manager Alex Cora relieved him but not before digging a 0-7 hole. Four of the six Yankee hits had exit velocities of 103.6 MPH or higher; three of them exited at 107.0+ MPH.
Darwinzon Hernández (1.1 IP) and, in particular, Ryan Weber (4.0 IP), were lone bright spots for Boston on Sunday, giving the team much-needed scoreless relief, but the Sox offense was entirely missing, yet again.
Nowhere to Hide
When companies make a lot of money their success can mask incredible inefficiencies that only the insiders see. For the Red Sox in 2019, a prodigious offense has similarly helped mask just how poorly they’ve pitched. Wins have come, in many cases, on the strength of the mighty offense, oftentimes leaving poor pitching a forgotten afterthought.
But in New York the offense this weekend sputtered with Sox batting, a miserable 23-for-128 (.180) and a weak .336 slugging percentage, rarely making the Yanks uncomfortable, let alone threatening the game. New York countered with a 42-for-132 (.318) assault that included a .553 SLG.
Sunday’s loss was the 55th of the season for the Red Sox, more losses than in all of 2018—with still 48 more games to play this year. If they play .500 baseball the rest of the way the Sox would finish with 83 wins, their lowest full-season win total since going 78-84 in 2015.
The Sox head back to Fenway for three games against the Royals and for against the Angels before heading back out on the road.