It would be unwise to write off these Red Sox
While it hasn't clicked for Boston like it did in 2013, club could still make run
OAKLAND -- If you catch the Boston Red Sox on a day like this one, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.
This one was just like old times. Offensive contributions up and down the lineup. Solid work by left-hander Jon Lester. Throw in some aggressive baserunning and a nice day on defense.
You remember these Red Sox, don't you? In a nightmare of a 2014 season, the Red Sox had themselves a better day at the office on Sunday afternoon.
Maybe it's a day they'll look back at and see it as the one that sparked the run we're expecting. There's still a core of players who've long set a standard for professionalism, for competing and ultimately for winning.
And so, it's easy to read too much into a 7-6, 10-inning victory over the A's on Sunday afternoon. It was a game that showed off the Olde Towne Team at both their best and their worst.
In the end, though, it was a win. Not a pretty win. Not a perfect win. After three straight losses to the A's, it was win.
At 35-41, the Red Sox are remarkably only 6 1/2 games out first in the American League East and five out in the AL Wild Card race.
It's doable, right?
"You've got to continue to play for the out, play for the inning, play for the at-bat," said outfielder Jonny Gomes, who had three of his team's 13 hits. "Things will take care of itself."
Even though a 6-1 lead evaporated in the eighth and ninth innings, even though closer Koji Uehara allowed a pair of home runs, it was at least a day when Boston could leave the ballpark satisfied with the bottom line.
In the end, the Red Sox can thank David Ortiz for again saving their bacon. He led off the top of the 10th inning with the home run that turned a potentially terrible day into a satisfactory one.
"When the last out is made all year, we can truly look ourselves in the mirror and know the hustle and mental focus and all that stuff is there," Gomes said. "We haven't had one guy benched for lack of hustle. We don't have guys making mental mistakes between the lines. We're getting outscored by one. We just have to keep fighting."
Boston had lost the first three games of this series by the combined score of 10-6 and has played nine straight games decided by one or two runs. The defending champs are 4-5 in those games, but with a deep, talented pitching staff, they still might have a run left in them.
The Red Sox knew this season would be different. That is, they understood that everything clicked last season.
Boston led the Majors in runs, 853 in all -- 5.3 per game -- during 2013. The club knew this season would be different, perhaps frustrating.
In counting on rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. taking over for Jacoby Ellsbury and rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts stepping in for Stephen Drew, there was an unknown quantity.
What the Red Sox didn't expect was that players up and down the lineup would have a drop in production and that the offense would go silent so many games. They've dropped from first to 23rd in runs, from 5.3 per game to 3.8.
In scoring seven runs on Sunday, Boston got one more than the previous three games combined. Ortiz offered a salute to Oakland's pitching staff, the best in the Majors.
"All the guys they run out there have an ERA of 2.00," he said.
Or so it seems.
Anyway, in a year when at least 25 of 30 teams still have a legitimate shot at the postseason, the Red Sox intend to keep grinding.
Drew is back at shortstop after being re-signed, and the pitching staff might be the deepest in baseball.
So keep on keeping on.
"We've been on the cusp many, many days, and it hasn't always worked out," manager John Farrell said. "We have complete and full trust in the guys that are in our clubhouse. And yet, there's been mounting frustration. Today was a good day to bunch some hits together. That's the biggest thing."
Besides the three by Gomes, Mike Napoli and David Ross had two apiece. Napoli had himself a day to remember by being credited with a steal of home in the third inning and hitting a home run in the fifth. No Red Sox player had done that in 47 years (Rico Petrocelli).
But it's a different kind of year. Even with Drew back, Farrell had three rookies in his starting lineup -- right fielder Brock Holt, third baseman Bogaerts and center fielder Bradley Jr.
Given the inconsistencies, Farrell has had an endless search for a combination that works. He has started six players at first, seven in right field and five apiece at third and in left.
Farrell has used five leadoff hitters, five No. 3 hitters and five cleanup hitters. Dustin Pedroia has hit first, second and third. Daniel Nava has batted in seven of the nine spots, Gomes in five.
So far, it hasn't come close to clicking the way it did last season. But there are just too many players who've accomplished too much and still seem capable of playing at a championship level to write off these Red Sox.
"It's just something that hopefully can get started," Ortiz said. "We haven't been able to produce consistently. We've had a good game, had a good series, then we go back to struggles. Hopefully, everything changes at some point."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.