Let’s work backwards.
The Sox lost their fourth straight last night against a suddenly hot Astros team. Mat Latos has now given up four or more earned runs in four straight starts. Like the other starts, these runs weren’t manufactured and weren’t cheap in any fashion. He’s been getting hit hard, and last night Colby Rasmus and Jason Castro launched two titanic blasts which would end up being the difference in the game. The Sox defense, however, continued to show improvement over last season by turning their second triple play of the year. Zach Putnam and Dan Jennings both had adventurous outings but managed to come out unscathed while giving up three walks combined.
On Tuesday the Sox lost in extras in what was an ugly game by the numbers. Carlos Rodon had his standard performance of looking unhittable at times, but mostly just getting too much of the plate with his strikes. Poor defense led by errors from Saladino and Jackson led to the only unearned run of the game which eventually made the difference in the Sox comeback effort. Clutch hitting by Adam Eaton almost paved the way for a Sox victory but they fell short against an Astros team that’s now getting contributions across the diamond.
Pitching was the culprit on Sunday as the Sox dropped the final game in the series with the Yankees. Miguel Gonzalez couldn’t get out of the fifth inning, leaving the bullpen hanging out to dry. They didn’t do much to help his cause as Dan Jennings, Zach Duke, Matt Albers and Nate Jones all allowed one Yankee to cross the plate. The offense had a decent day against a tough pitcher in Tanaka.
Finally, on Saturday the Sox wasted a good outing by Jose Quintana. Sound familiar? They couldn’t get anything going against Ivan Nova, a pitcher who couldn’t even crack the starting rotation at the start of the season. Once the card flipped to the seventh inning it was all but over as the three-headed monster of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman struck out eight batters through three and a third innings.
So what are we seeing? First, a little bit of normalization. Mat Latos and Matt Albers were never going to be shut down pitchers for the entire season. Albers needs to be better but simply isn’t good enough as a seventh inning guy. I’m fine with Latos as the fifth starter because that means he doesn’t have to pitch in the playoffs. So they don’t have a fourth starter and no seventh inning reliever. It’s arguable that they don’t really have a third starter either. Carlos Rodon isn’t performing well enough to be considered a solid third starter. He throws too many pitches and doesn’t give his bullpen a break.
We’re also seeing a little bit of baseball being baseball. This may sound strange, but the good news is that this isn’t the same old story. They’re losing right now because they’re simply getting outplayed, but not in the same fashion as last year. Last year they were dramatically beat down on offensive and couldn’t catch the ball. In these losses we’re seeing them score enough runs to win and play good enough defense to stop the bleeding at times. The old adage of “it’s just not coming together right now” applies to this team whereas last year it never came together because there was nothing to come together. Though there are still many questions on this roster, it’s not time to hit the panic button. Even the best teams in the league have slumps, let’s not downgrade our expectations just yet.