A year ago on July 28, the Red Sox were 20 games above .500. They maintained a slim half-game lead in the AL East.
Fast forward to this season, and they occupy the cellar of the division and were just handed one of their worst defeats of the season, falling 14-1 to the Blue Jays.
It’s perplexing to try to account for what has gone wrong this season. But starter Clay Buchholz, who was tagged for seven runs in Monday night’s drubbing (the most he’s allowed this season), tried to offer up an explanation after the loss.
“[We] lost a handful of good players last year that contributed a lot,” Buchholz said. “Having [Jacoby] Ellsbury in center field, a threat to hit 30 home runs in a season, and [who] can obviously run when he gets on base, we don’t have every single factor that we had last year to go into our team.”
Buchholz assured that he wasn’t attempting to slight anyone on the current roster, however.
“I’m not saying anybody that’s on the field right now that wasn’t here last year or wasn’t starting last year isn’t as good, but when you take a couple of guys out of the middle of the lineup and the middle of the field, and try to rely on different people to do different things, it might not happen right away, and I think that’s what we’re dealing with,” Buchholz said.
“Even with that being said and going into spring training, even after the first half, I think everybody was still pretty confident that this team’s definitely good enough to play in October and through October.”
It’s become a reality that the Red Sox are very unlikely to reach October, as are 48-58, sitting 11 games back in the East. They trail the fourth-place Rays by four games.
The Red Sox have taken the position of sellers at the impending trading deadline, with rumors circulating about a number of players, including ace Jon Lester. Buchholz maintains that despite the uneasiness this time of year brings, it’s inevitable.
“I think when it comes to that, everybody thinks of it as a business,” Buchholz said. “There’s nothing you could do if you expressed your feelings any differently rather than just come to the field and try and win that day. Everybody hears about it, it’s everywhere that we’re at so obviously we know, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Buchholz is one of the few members of the Red Sox rotation whose name hasn’t been linked to speculation. There’s at least a slight possibility that by game time on Thursday, Buchholz could be the senior member of the Sox rotation. But his performance Monday night was not one that inspired confidence.
The righty was far from sharp, allowing seven runs on seven hits and four walks while fanning four. The string of solid starts he put together after his activation from the DL in late June are a thing of the past. He’s given up eight walks in his last 11 innings, and he’s been touched for four or more earned runs in each of his last three outings.
“Overall I felt pretty good with command, location … a couple of pitches that got hit and got a couple of ground balls that would have done us some good just out of reach of a couple of guys, they hit the pitches I missed,” Buchholz said of his start on Monday.
“I think he just didn’t have his fastball command tonight,” offered catcher David Ross. “Clay’s a very talented pitcher, he just had a bad night.”
But Buchholz has had a few “bad nights” this season. He’s been inconsistent, with streaks of effectiveness followed by a few bad outings. Overall, his 2014 numbers are ugly; he owns a 5.87 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP through 17 starts.
But when asked if it was somewhat of a lost year for him, Buchholz remained hopeful.
“I’ve got a lot of games left to pitch,” he said.
The Red Sox hope Buchholz can find some kind of consistency before the season is over, because he may be relied on heavily in the near future.