BOSTON -- With a 10-game homestand next on the schedule, the Red Sox find themselves back atop the division with the Orioles at 36-26 -- despite dropping a game Sunday against the miserable Minnesota Twins.
While pitching continues to be the major concern for Boston, the staff held its own on the just-concluded five-game trip -- excluding Eduardo Rodriguez’s start -- posting four quality starts and making it through the seventh inning three times.
However, it was magnified that Boston’s offense will have astonishing peaks (scoring 23 runs in the first two games against Minnesota) and valleys (getting only one off rookie Pat Dean Sunday).
And that’s bound to happen.
The Sox are still impressive at the plate -- with a few exceptions -- but what are they going to do in games where they can’t produce?
The Red Sox are 29th in MLB in sacrifice bunts with three, edging out Baltimore’s last-place two. Given the two rank 10th and 1st, respectively, in home runs, it’s understandable.
But in looking at teams ranking between them in homers, particularly the Cardinals (fifth) and the Nationals (fourth), there’s been a fair amount of sacrifices. St. Louis is fifth in sacrifice bunts, and Washington is 15th.
Both are National League teams, true. But Boston’s usual number nine hitter -- Christian Vazquez -- has days where he’s about as effective as a good-hitting pitcher.
Since John Farrell took over in 2013, the Red Sox are 29th in the MLB in bunts, only edging out the ultimate sacrifice-bunt haters, the Oakland A’s. And the Red Sox of this century haven’t ever really been a bunting team, ranking last in baseball during Terry Francona’s reign of 2004-11 (the A’s ranked 28th in that time frame).
So that organizational philosophy has been around for a while.
But there are instances the Red Sox will need to bunt, especially with a hitter like Travis Shaw -- who’s 19-for-his-last-100 -- when a sac bunt would prove useful.
Everyone other than David Ortiz -- and Hanley Ramirez if he gets his power back -- should have the capability of being a halfway decent bunter. Yes, even Xander Bogaerts should be able to, but mainly because he’s quick on his feet.
Small ball is definitely not something the Red Sox need to use more often; that couldn’t be further from the truth. But it has to be an option, especially since the Sox are 5-8 in one-run ballgames and 17-16 in games decided by 3 runs or less.
Farrell needs to be able to trust his players to execute a simple bunt in tight situations.
Because, again, if they make the postseason and want to make a run they’ll be in tighter games more frequently, given they’re bound to face pitching more similar to Madison Bumgarner than Kyle Gibson.