SEATTLE – Major League Baseball in on pace to set a record for most homers in a season. But someone, apparently, forgot to tell the Red Sox.
Baseballs are leaving the ballpark almost as often as young fans. The numbers are suspiciously high enough that commissioner Rob Manfred was peppered with questions about the spike at the All-Star break. In this (mostly) post-PED era, surely if the players aren’t juiced, than the baseballs are.
Again, the Red Sox are left out of this equation. While their run total isn’t bad -- until recently, they remained in the top third in that category in the American League -- their home run numbers are skimpy.
Lately, that lack of power has been killing them.
They hit one in three games in Anaheim, and wouldn’t you know it, it was a solo shot. In their last six games, they have just two. That would be one fewer than the number of homers allowed by Rick Porcello Sunday in Anaheim.
When they’re not hitting homers, the Red Sox make things difficult for themselves. They need to piece together hit after hit after hit to mount any sort of big inning, and lately, those have been nearly non-existent, helping to explain their lackluster 5-7 record since the All-Star break.
They’re not a bad team offensively. No lineup featuring Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Hanley Ramirez can be considered a pushover. But without the home run weaponry, the Sox are especially susceptible to team-wide slumps, like the one in which they’re currently ensconced.
One swing of the bat -- in either the sixth or seventh, when the Sox had multiple baserunners -- could have changed things quickly. Instead, the Sox were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position in those two innings, leading to a desultory 4-0 loss to Seattle.
Playing in spacious Safeco Field, matched against masterful Mariners lefty James Paxton, the Sox’ couldn’t pack a punch.
“We couldn’t string any base hits together,’’ conceded John Farrell. “I know that’s kind of a recurring theme, particularly in this most recent run. We did in the first game of this road trip (against the Angels) and that’s the kind of offense we’re capable of. But to sustain it, that’s been a little bit of hit-and-miss.’’
On Friday night in Anaheim, the Sox showed what the lineup is capable of on a good night. In the first inning, they used the entire field and were proficient at hitting the ball the other way. That approach landed the Sox a quick 5-0 lead for ace Chris Sale.
But those kinds of games have been far too infrequent of late. And unable to extend innings, when the Sox fall behind early, a three or four-run deficit seems insurmountable.
All of which lead to numbers like this: five runs in the last three games (all losses); an average of 3.5 runs per games since the All-Star break; and an MLB-leading nine shutouts this season.
“Our offense is built like it is and we can’t come out of that approach,’’ shrugged Farrell. “I don’t see guys trying to leave the ballpark with big swings. It’s a matter of staying in the middle of the field and putting quality at-bats together. Like I said, we’re a team that got to be built on consecutive base hits.’’
Absent those, they’re in trouble.
It’s unlikely to get much better Tuesday. Safeco Field is still going have roomy dimensions and yawning power alleys when the Sox return, and their task will be made no easier by the presence of Felix Hernandez, Seattle’s starter.
If it’s any consolation, Hernandez has given up 13 homers in just 62.2 innings this season.
Then again, those homers were all hit by other teams. Hernandez hasn’t had the luxury of facing this Red Sox lineup this season.