BOSTON — Even before Mookie Betts' left wrist flared up and Eduardo Nunez re-aggravated his right knee Monday, the Red Sox’ health situation looked tenuous heading into the final week of the regular season. Particularly when it came to position players. Dustin Pedroia was out of the lineup Monday after a 1-for-26 road trip.
Now the scene turns scary. Consider that every other American League team that has clinched a postseason spot (or in the case of the Twins, is expected to) is one of the majors’ top five teams in runs scored per game: the Astros, Yankees, Indians and Twins. The Sox are 10th.
The Sox lineup lacks firepower to begin with. Losing any more at this time of year is a recipe for a rough October.
"It sucks. It sucks," Nunez said. "Especially this time of year when it's close to the playoffs. It sucks."
The regular-season results show the Sox have adapted well overall when guys like Pedroia and Nunez have missed time. But that’s the regular season, and adding Betts to the mix is just disquieting.
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Nunez on Monday returned to the lineup for the first time in 16 days. Now he isn’t expected back until during the Astros series, his right knee injury re-aggravated.
But there’s room for good news yet. Betts is to get his left wrist examined Tuesday. A positive prognosis there, and there should be a sense of a crisis averted. On Monday night, he expected to be fine, but he also didn't know what was going on.
Farrell before the game made clear Nunez wasn’t exactly full go yet.
“[His return is] quicker than what it possibly could have been. You’re talking about a ligament damage to the PCL [posterior cruciate ligament] and I know it’s less severe than an ACL/MCL, but still it’s about pain tolerance,” Farrell said. “It’s about managing it. His body has to recondition to take care of that. His muscles have to respond in a different way. … If he feels a little bit of a zinger, that’s going to go away. He’s not putting himself at further risk.”
Farrell said after the game the feeling is Nunez didn’t do any new damage, but nonetheless, it’s easy to think now the Sox should have waited longer.
Meanwhile, Pedroia’s been managing a left knee injury all season and didn’t play.
“When the knee starts to talk back to him a little bit, we’ve all got to listen to it and give him a down day,” Farrell said. “I would expect him to be back on the field tomorrow.”
Farrell thought it reasonable to connect the knee to Pedroia’s recent poor performance hitting wise.
All year, resiliency has been a buzzword for Sox because of their propensity for late-inning comebacks. Sunday’s eighth-inning rally against the Reds was the latest example, leading to the Sox’ 42nd come-from-behind win.
How they’ve dealt with a variety of health situations adds another layer to their reputation for handling adversity. Per spotrac.com, the Sox have had the fifth most disabled list days this season, 1,601.
The Indians were doubted going into last year’s postseason because of health situations with their pitching. They did pretty well. But it’d also be foolish to minimize the importance of injuries to Pedroia, Nunez and Betts, and how they look heading into October.