The 2022 Boston Red Sox have plenty of redeeming qualities. They lead the American League in hits (805), rank second behind only the New York Yankees in runs scored (422) and have led in 76 percent of their games this season (69 of 90).
And yet Boston now sits fourth in the American League East at 47-43 after losing four straight to the Tampa Bay Rays and dropping eight of their last 10.
So, what's the main culprit behind the Red Sox' struggles? These two stats from the Rays' media relations staff -- shared by The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham after Boston's 5-4 loss at Tropicana Field on Thursday night -- sum it up:
- The Red Sox have blown a lead in 21 of their 43 losses and a lead of three or more runs seven times.
- The Red Sox are 12-15 in one-run games.
Alex Cora's club particularly struggled holding leads in Tampa this week. The Sox coughed up a 2-0 lead Tuesday night, wasting Chris Sale's strong 2022 debut by allowing three runs in the sixth inning en route to a 3-2 loss. They took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning Thursday night and promptly allowed five runs before falling 5-4.
While starter Kutter Crawford was responsible for three of those runs Thursday night, these stats highlight Boston's shortcomings in the bullpen. The Red Sox have blown 19 saves (second-most in Major League Baseball) and are the only team in baseball that has converted less than 50 percent of its save opportunities (18 saves in 37 opportunities).
Garrett Whitlock is set to return from the 15-day injured list this weekend and could give the bullpen a boost, but it's possible he returns to the starting rotation anyway. Simply put, the Red Sox need more relief pitching if they're serious about reaching the postseason.
There should be several relief arms available ahead of the Aug. 2 MLB trade deadline, from Pittsburgh Pirates star David Bednar to Detroit Tigers relievers Andrew Chafin and Michael Fulmer to Colorado Rockies right-hander (and former Red Sox) Daniel Bard.
Some of those relievers may be out of Chaim Bloom's price range, especially if they're just rentals. But if the Red Sox want to compete in October, bullpen help should be their top priority.