Panic has arrived.
Maybe not, but there is something about falling flat in early April that is significantly different than duplicating the failure in June. Even running into trouble later in the first month becomes much more palatable.
Does anybody remember the five-game losing streak the Red Sox endured last year thanks to games against the Angels and Rays, starting on April 22 and ending on April 27? Probably not. They were, after all, still 15-12 after the hiccup.
After six games last season there were some players not feeling too good about themselves, with a reactionary fan base following along: David Ortiz (2 for 22, .091), Jacoby Ellsbury (2 for 11, .182), Mike Lowell (5 for 24, .208), and even Dustin Pedroia (6 for 24, .250). The team? The Red Sox were hitting .242 with five homers.
This time around, the list is comparable with Jed Lowrie (1 for 18, .056), J.D. Drew (2 for 16, .125), Pedroia (4 for 24, .167), Lowell (4 for 23, .174), Ortiz (4 for 20, .200), and Ellsbury (5 for 24, .208). As a team ... an identical .242 average with eight homers.
The Sox have 22 runs through half a dozen games this year after totaling 19 in the same span a year ago.
Now, after dropping a 5-4 decision to the Angels, Sunday at Angel Stadium, the Red Sox are 2-4. Last year they were 3-3. One week later they had taken three our of four against the Yankees, were sitting at 7-6, and all was right with the world.
Get the point?
Still, that doesn't mean there aren't things we can take out of the Red Sox' latest loss. With that in mind, here are five things we learned Sunday:
1) JOSH BECKETT HAS A LIST
And hitting somebody in head is not on it, as the Red Sox starter articulated after the loss saying, "I have yet to hit someone in the head and it's not on my list of (expletive) to do."
The reason Beckett brought up his list, of course, was because of the pitch thrown near the head of Bobby Abreu in the first inning after Abreu was granted timeout during the pitcher's wind-up.
After the pitch Abreu yelled out at Beckett, who returned the favor, leading to both benches clearing.
"I don't know," Abreu told reporters after the game when asked if he felt Beckett was intentionally trying to injure him. "The umpire called time, I called time, too. For some reason -- I don't know if he heard it or not -- he threw the ball at my head. It doesn't look good.
"If I wasn't paying attention, I would have gotten hit in the head. That's not right. It was very close."
After the field was littered with players, a few of the Angels took it to the next level when they were warned for not exiting the field. Torii Hunter and manager Mike Sciosca were ultimately ejected.
"The Angels were the aggressors, that's why they were ejected," said crew chief Joe West, who also noted that Hunter threatened to fight Beckett. "They were the aggressors and Beckett was warned. We even charged the Red Sox with a trip to the mound, because the manager and the pitching coach were standing there when we separated everybody. They weren't happy about that either, so we had everybody mad at us."
While Beckett doesn't have any history of head-hunting, he is prone to going back at players who verbally challenge him. Two instances came when Philadelphia's Ryan Howard got into a spring training shouting match in 2007, and during the '07 American League Championship Series when the Sox starter was fined $1,000 for verbally going back after Cleveland's Kenny Lofton.
When the smoke cleared, it appeared the Red Sox were in a good position. They had a 2-0 lead -- thanks to back-to-back home runs by Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew -- and with Hunter (5 for 11 against Beckett coming in) out of the game, and the Sox starter seemed primed for a second straight message-sender.
Factor in the reality that Beckett spent last season as a much better road pitcher (.226 batting average against as a visitor) compared to his performance at Fenway Park (.295 BAA at home), and the fact that he was hitting 96 mph on the radar gun, and it looked as though the Sox were destined to leave town with a .500 record.
Beckett did pitch decently, going six innings while giving up four runs on eight hits while throwing 103 pitches. But at the end of the day he would take his first loss of the season, leaving with the Red Sox trailing, 4-2.
2) ROCCO BALDELLI IS NOT GOING TO BE SITTING AROUND
In the ninth inning and Nick Green at first base, Terry Francona chose to send Baldelli to the plate to represent the game-tying run, pinch-hitting for Jacoby Ellsbury. The thinking was that Angels' closer Brian Fuentes, a lefty who held left-handed batters to a .184 batting average last season, would be a tough assignment for the struggling Ellsbury.
Baldelli, who is a .298 hitter against lefties, fell behind, 1-2, on three straight fastballs before striking out on a Fuentes slider.
Francona has noted how he will integrate Baldelli for both Ellsbury and Drew in the coming days as the Red Sox are scheduled to face a slew of lefty starters (including Monday's opponent, Oakland hurler Dallas Braden). Sunday signaled that the Sox manager will also be using Baldelli routinely as a pinch-hitter, a role in which the outfielder doesn't have a whole lot of experience.
Baldelli entered Sunday with three hits and three walks in 18 pinch-hitting plate appearances for his career. Unlike previous Red Sox players who went from regulars to part-timers, such as Eric Hinske, Baldelli has suggested he won't change his approach of heading into at-bats without an in-game preparatory routine, choosing to take the "see-ball, hit-ball" philosophy.
3) SOME SOX HITTERS ARE A BIT OFF
Drew epitomized the kind of production turned in by virtually every middle-of-the-order Sox hitter not named Youkilis. The team's No. 5 hitter launches a solo homer in the first inning, but then sees his momentum take a nose-dive later in the game.
In the eighth inning, with the Red Sox still down by one run, runners on first and second and nobody out, Drew popped out to shallow left on a first-pitch fastball from reliever Scot Shields.
Then, an inning later, Drew came up with the tying run on second once again, this time with two outs and Fuentes on the mound. He took a called third strike to end the game. It completed a day in which the right fielder left six men on base.
"Fastball in, slider, fastball away," Drew told reporters. "I thought the last two were off the plate. He obviously thought the last one was a strike. Probably a little too close to take, but it's a hard pitch to handle when you have to reach out there like that."
Another hitter who came away with the frustration of a missed opportunity was Lowell, who popped up to third with one out and the bases loaded in the eighth. The pop-up came after the Sox' No. 7 hitter worked a 2-0 count and got the 91 mph fastball from Shields he was hoping for.
After the game Lowell was still wondering how he missed the pitch, which was understandable considering he hit .438 (7 for 16) on 2-0 counts last season.
As they head to Oakland, the Red Sox are currently carrying the third-worst batting average with runners in scoring position (.174), totaling just nine RBI (second-worst in the majors) in such situations.
4) BULLPEN HASN'T CAUGHT UP TO EXPECTATIONS
Considered one of the team's biggest strengths entering the season, the Red Sox' bullpen hasn't hit its stride quite yet. With Hideki Okajima giving up a solo homer in the eighth, he has now allowed runs in two of his three outings.
In fact, every member of the vaunted Sox pen has allowed allowed at least one run with the exceptions of Ramon Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen.
While the nine runs allowed in 16 2/3 innings put the Red Sox' bullpen in the middle of the pack, one thing to note is that the group has totaled the fewest strikeouts (9) of any relief corps in the majors.
5) WE CAN TURN OUR EYES TOWARD NOMAR AND ORLANDO
With the Angels in the rear-view mirror, the Red Sox can distract themselves with the notion that they will be meeting up with their two starting shortstops from the world championship 2004 season, Nomar Garciaparra and Orlando Cabrera.
Cabrera is hitting .318 while Garciaparra, playing first base, is standing at .211.