BOSTON (CBS) – When you really stop and think about it, this isn’t about the first game of what could be a five-game playoff series. It’s about a pattern, a disturbing one, and one that repeatedly suggests these Red Sox cannot elevate when the competition does.
So fine, the Sox are down 1-0 to the Houston Astros in a best-of-5 American League Division Series that began with an 8-2 Boston defeat Thursday in Houston. But going back to last year, this generation of the Red Sox – built around the young Bs of Betts, Benintendi, Bogaerts and Bradley – is now 0-for-4 in the postseason and has yet to hold so much as a lead since the very first inning of Game 1 of last year’s sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.
This series, of course, is different. Maybe. But the Red Sox got their faces kicked in again Thursday, raising not only questions about how they handled fading ace Chris Sale during the season, but whether this group ultimately has what it takes.
Fact: since the start of last postseason, the Red Sox have been outscored 23-8. They haven’t held a lead in their last 35 innings of postseason play. And while the Sox certainly have seen their share of starting pitchers fall flat of their faces – add Sale now to David Price and Rick Porcello – they are also batting a wimpy .223 in those games.
Quite simply, the Sox sometimes look more afraid of themselves than the opposition does.
Look, starting pitching has a lot to do with it. Of course. In the last year, Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price have a combined postseason ERA of 11.85. That isn’t winning in April, October or March, so those looking for the simplest problem should absolutely focus on that one.
But it’s more than that, of course. It always is. Dustin Pedroia got thrown out at third base, in the middle of a rally, the Red Sox trailing 2-0 at the time. He claimed he was trying to ensure that a run scored. Red Sox officials tried to start a player, Eduardo Nunez, who literally couldn’t get out of the starting block. Meanwhile, club officials sat Hanley Ramirez, who has their best postseason resume, while endorsing Doug Fister for the very same reason.
Friday brings Game 2, another starter in Drew Pomeranz, another chance at redemption. In a five-game series, it isn’t really a must-win. But for the current Red Sox, it certainly feels like it, because another loss would move the Sox to the edge of winter without much of a whimper for the second year in a row, and this time the baseball world from Bangor to Baja won’t be able to line up and blame David Price.
If the Red Sox don’t win a playoff game – and a series – soon, they will have to look in the mirror in the next few days, and they will need to look much, much deeper.