'What we learned': Red Sox' 13-7 loss to Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Three things we learned from Monday's 13-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. . .
1) John Farrell held a post-game meeting
Following yet another one-sided loss, Farrell took the unusual step of closing the clubhouse and asked the clubhouse attendants to leave, so he could address his team.
The message, according to some who were there: You're better than this and capable of more. Play for your teammates, rely on them, and keep fighting.
As team meetings go, it was far from explosive. Farrell was more impassioned than angry, but the urgency of the message was striking.
Will it help? Who knows. This isn't like other sports. In football, where most contracts aren't guaranteed, coaches have the ultimate weapon in that they can cut underachieving players, or at the very least, put that scare into some.
In baseball, that doesn't work. The days of a raving, screaming manager tipping over the post-game spread went out with the likes of Earl Weaver and Billy Martin.
Managers have to be careful that they don't go overboard and lose a team, especially when that's not their normal method of operation. If players see a manager manufacturing anger and outrage to make a point, than the message is lost.
This much can be said for Farrell: his players generally play hard for him and don't quit. Lately, of course, they haven't played well -- an understatement if ever one existed.
But it will be interesting to see what sort of impact his talk has in the next few days.
2) The first inning is killing the Red Sox
On Monday, they trailed 5-0 after one inning. On Sunday, they were down 3-0 after one. On Friday, they fell behind 3-0.
Detect a pattern here.
And it's not just the last two series. Since June 12, the Red Sox have been outscored 22-0 in the first inning of their last 15 games. They haven't scored a run of their own in the first since June 11.
That's quite a turnaround from earlier this season when it was the Red Sox who were often scoring multiple runs in the first inning.
This time, it's more about the putrid starting pitching the Red Sox have been getting. The team has a 6.28 ERA in the first inning, which would be the second-worst mark in franchise history.
"To continue to fall behind as much as we have of late,'' said John Farrell, "we're more talented than that. We have the capabilities of executing pitchers at a higher rate and we can't continue to expect our offense to climb out of holes as we've been. We've got to set the tone and lead the way from the mound, more than we are.''
Beyond the pressures big holes place on the offense to make up early-game deficits, there's also a toll taken on the bullpen, which has had to come into games too often in the early innings and get 12 to 15 (or more) outs.
3) Eduardo Rodriguez was optioned after the game - as he should have been
Initially, John Farrell said that the team hadn't made any determination about the composition of the rotation. But some 20 minutes later, after Rodriguez had been pulled into the office for a meeting that included Dave Dombrowski, Dombrowski announced that Rodriguez was being sent to Pawtucket, with no corresponding move to make.
That was the easy part. Rodriguez took a massive step back Monday after showing general improvement with his location and power in his last outing. But Monday, he was shelled, and his poor body language didn't help, resulting in a tongue lashing on the mound from teammate Dustin Pedroia.
Rodriguez doesn't deserve another start for now, as the Red Sox can't afford to have him work through things while they try to halt their free-fall in the standings. Rodriguez seems to be doing all the right things in his side sessions -- then appears to forget them when he goes to the mound in games.
At the very least, he needs to start using his slider more, since his two-pitch mix of fastball and changeup isn't fooling anyone.
As to who the Sox will replace him with, that's the tricky part.
"I have to remain focused on the guys internally,'' said Farrell. "Whether there's an option that's an upgrade internally, that's one thing. But to say that someone else is going to walk through that door, from another organization, I'm not banking on that.''
Problem is, internal options are virtually non-existent. Henry Owens has shown he's not the answer and Brian Johnson isn't available. Neither, for that matter, is Joe Kelly -- not yet, anyway.
The one possibility is Aaron Wilkerson, plucked out of independent ball two years ago. Wilkerson is 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA over his last seven starts at Triple A. And he pitched Monday night for the Pawsox, so he would line up perfectly with Rodriguez’s spot.
He might get a shot, but he can hardly be looked upon as a savior for a rotation that's a complete mess.