The Red Sox aren't heading to Baltimore in bad shape, but you would have never known it by looking around the clubhouse after their 9-8 loss to Oakland on Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park.
Thoughts of heading to Camden Yards to serve as the warm-up act for a managerial firing -- along with the opportunity to play a team in the Orioles that is 21 games out of first-place and have lost eight in a row -- didn't brighten the postgame mood.
Maybe it was because the Sox went 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position against the A's, or perhaps it was the fact that they knocked out 18 hits and still came away with a loss. Then there is the notion that the Red Sox simply have come to realize when it comes to room for error, there isn't much to be had.
So as the Red Sox dressed for success before boarding their plane, there were some observations from what was a 4-3 homestand, along with what may lie ahead:
Regarding Tim Bogar: Yes, the two plays in which he sent Victor Martinez and Darnell McDonald weren't the wisest decisions. Whether he made the right or wrong call on the first decision, Martinez, was debatable considering what a nice play Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki had to make to gather in the throw from shortstop Cliff Pennington. But the reality is that with nobody out, and the meat of the order still coming up, even that was ill-advised. (Click here to see Bogar's postgame reaction.)
But, still, it's probably unwise to obsess on Bogar's execution in the third base coaching box. By the coach's own admission, his biggest downfall thus far has been being too aggressive (7 runners thrown out at home). For some teams that would be admirable, but with this offense -- which is currently second in the majors in runs scored, and the fourth most prolific run-producing team with runners in scoring position -- it's OK to exercise some caution.
DeMarlo Hale, the Red Sox' previous third base coach, is widely considered one of the best the organization has had in that spot in years. But Hale was thought to be very, very cautious in his first year, which, if nothing else, prevented postgame interview sessions along the lines of what Bogar has already gone through twice this season.
In short, of the things to worry about regarding the Red Sox, Bogar shouldn't be one of them.
The Mike Lowell situation has to be resolved, for everybody's benefit: This is the frustration of Lowell: You put up 17 homers in 119 games in a season in which you feel pretty lousy throughout, come back the next year feeling a whole lot better, get a chance to play a bit through the first month, and then, boom, nothing. Once-a-week appearances, the latest of which consisted of three at-bats before replaced by a pinch-hitter on Thursday. (He has had nine at-bats in the past two weeks.)
From the team's perspective, there simply isn't a spot in which to fit Lowell. The three spots Lowell would play are all occupied by legitimate All-Star Game candidates. And when you have David Ortiz admitting after Thursday's game that he felt uncomfortable going up to pinch-hit for Lowell because of the respect and admiration he has for his longtime teammate, then that's a whole new level of uneasiness.
What had been a tolerable situation through the season's first month has become toxic as May turned into June.
"It's not an easy thing," Ortiz said of Lowell's situation. "Mikey Lowell's a great player and everybody knows it. Just watching him go through all kind of stuff, it hurts because I went through the same situation. It's tough, man."
If Boof Bonser comes back to the Red Sox early next week, as expected, what does he provide the team? (Bonser's last game with Triple A Pawtucket has to be, and will be, Saturday. That ends his rehab stint and he is out of options.) In his last two starts with the PawSox Bonser has allowed just one run in 13 innings.
"He threw the ball pretty well [recently]," said Red Sox manaager Terry Francona prior to Thursday's game. "[Pawtucket manager] Torey [Lovullo] has been real impressed. Again, there's been some ups and downs, but when he's able to go out."
When spring training began there was a belief that Bonser could offer very good value in a seventh-inning role, perhaps even allowing his stuff (when healthy) to move him up to a set-up situation. But does the seven-inning stint suggest he might be the latest in line to fill in for one of the regulars in the starting rotation? Regardless, it will be interesting to see if by August Bonser will have either developed himself into a semi-valuable trade chip, or even somebody who has entrenched himself into a spot of more value than just run-of-the-mill middle relief.
It didn't look like much, but when Victor Martinez neatly placed a single into left field in the first inning it represented exactly how things have been going for the catcher. He is a streaky hitter -- always has been -- and right now, no matter how hard-hit the ball, he is on quite a streak.
Since May 17, Martinez has gone 8-for-15 against left-handers (second only to old friend Jason Bay, who is 9-for-16 vs. southpaws during that stretch). It is a period in which Martinez has totaled a .462 batting average.
A stolen base? It could have potentially been a big play. Bill Hall stealing third, and then coming in on a sacrifice fly by Marco Scutaro to draw the Red Sox within a run. It offered a reminder: Without Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup, the Sox aren't running … practically at all.
The Sox are currently last in the majors with just 14 steals. They have also attempted the fewest stolen bases, trying it just 20 times. (The Phillies have the second-fewest attempts with 24.) In case you forgot, last season the Red Sox finished the year with the fifth-most stolen bases in the big leagues.
It was interesting to hear Dustin Pedroia joke after Wednesday night's game ("I was running the whole way. We're running into outs now, who cares. We're just running") considering the Red Sox have been thrown out the third-fewest times trying to take an extra base (8). It should be noted that Kevin Youkilis leads the majors in going from first to third, accomplishing the journey nine times.
Marco Scutaro might have found his cure. In the last two games Scutaro has four hits in 10 at-bats. It doesn't seem like much, but it might be something to watch. This week was the first he was able to truly treat the cause of the pain in both his elbow and shoulder -- a pinched nerve in back of his neck. Each day he meets with a chiropractor to stretch out his neck, along with getting a massage, with the hope of loosening up the nerve that was radiating pain to what was thought to be an injured elbow.
"When I woke up each morning," he said, "it felt like somebody had been beating me up all night." That's never good.
The waiting game for Jacoby Ellsbury will continue in Baltimore and Cleveland. Ellsbury will be making the road trip with the Red Sox after spending the last two days amping up his physical activities. He is eligible to come off of the disabled list at the end of next week, but there is still some question if the outfielder's ribs will be ready for action by then.
In case you missed it, Ellsbury's agent, Scott Boras, said he has no issues with the process in which his client has rehabbed from the cracked ribs.
"The dialogue has been good," Boras said. "There's certainly been no problem from my perspective of how this has unfolded."
As intriguing a story as the Armando Galarrago near-perfect game was, you got the sense the players were sick of being bombarded by it by the time they left town. Scutaro, by the way, played with Galarraga for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League and wasn't surprised at the low-key way he handled the aftermath, describing him as "quiet" and somebody who "kept to himself."
Wondering which bullpen member came up with the nickname "Magic Man" for Daisuke Matsuzaka? Joe Nelson is your man.
"Dice can get in some jams, but he can get out of them, too. His stuff is really good," Nelson explained. "I've gotten into my own jams, but I usually don't get all the way out of them like him … He gets into trouble, but he gets out of it a lot too. He's the 'Magic Man'."
Here's a fun fact for you regarding Matsuzaka: While his ERA is an unimpressive 5.49, of the 43 innings he's started, 33 of them (77 percent, a number just short of Jon Lester and nearly equal to Clay Buchholz) have been scoreless.
Looking ahead to All-Star debate, here is where the Red Sox candidates rate at their respective positions in regard to OPS:
First base: 3. Kevin Youkilis (1.025)
Second base: 9. Dustin Pedroia (.787)
Third base: 6. Adrian Beltre (.860; It should be noted, however, that Beltre leads third baseman in hits). (For bonus Beltre, click here to see why the third baseman always asks for an appeal on every one of his checked swings.)
Catcher: 2. Victor Martinez (.906)
Designated hitter: 1. David Ortiz (.964)