The Sox were shut out at Fenway today by a score of 3-0, behind the solid pitching of Joel Piniero. However, they weren't without their opportunities. Nine Sox runners were left on base today, and a total of twenty over the last two games.
It's a problem that's plagued the Sox early this season. Frustratingly, 101 Sox runners have been left on base -- most in the AL, and second to only the Dodgers.
After leading the majors in runs each of the past three seasons, the Sox have scored four or less seven times in 11 games. Prior to today's shutout, they were 17th in runs scored, and 23rd in home runs. In fact, Wily Mo Pena's double was the only extra base hit the anemic Sox offense could muster. The Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the third and still failed to score.
Manny Ramirez has inexplicably been without an extra-base hit in the eleven games this year. And believe it or not, Manny leads the Sox with 15 strike outs this year - nearly twice as many as the next closest player. He has just two hits in his last 22 at bats, resulting in a paltry .205 average.
Sox catcher Josh Bard was charged with two passed balls, though it's often tough to distinguish where a wild pitch ends and a passed ball begins. The knuckleball is the toughest pitch for any catcher to handle, and as such, the number of wild pitches and knuckleballs in any Wakefield start is invariably high. Unfortunately for Bard, he's going to take the blame for a lot of passed balls that wouldn't get by him if he was catching another pitcher. You could call it a thankless job, Should anyone need more evidence of just how tough that job is, consider this; after trying to catch Wakefield just once during spring training, John Flaherty chose to retire rather than compete for the job.
Aside from the third inning -- when the Mariners scored all their runs with the aid of those two passed balls -- Wakefield pitched well, giving up nine hits and no walks with six strikeouts on the way to his 29th complete game.
The Sox were billed as a team built on pitching and defense to start this season, and so far they've delivered on that promise. Three of their seven victories have come by a 2-1 score. That's encouraging. Last year the Sox were 3-22 when they scored fewer than three runs. But they can't count on wining games by those slim margins all year. The offense has to wake up and do its part.
Josh Beckett leads the majors with a 1.29 ERA. So he's clearly been doing his part and can be expected to deliver more of the same against the Mariners tomorrow. But it's time for the offense to step up and give him some help. He's earned it.
Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.