So what's wrong with the Red Sox?

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As I type this the Red Sox are down 8-2 to the Rays, and are about to lose their fifth straight game and their sixth out of seven. In ATH this morning I wrote that we’d see a bunch of “what’s wrong with the Red Sox” articles today, but I didn’t see any. With this fresh debacle to the Rays, however, I’m sure we’ll see them tomorrow.

Ah, screw it. Let’s write one of our own!  So what is wrong with the Red Sox?

  • Cold bats: As I type this the Rays game is still happening so it may get worse or may get better, but currently they’re 1 for 30-something with runners in scoring position (that one came courtesy of a Bill Hall single a few minutes ago). They’ve scored nine runs in the past five games.  Dustin Pedroia is hitting so far this season. Youkilis is doing OK too. Everyone else is snoozing. At least one of the snoozers — David Ortiz — may never wake up.
  • Health: Two-thirds of the outfield is out, Cameron with kidney stones and Ellsbury with his bruised ribs. This has contributed to the cold bats, of course, as well as some recently shaky defense. When those other “what’s wrong” articles come tomorrow morning you just watch: they’re going to say that the whole run prevention/defense approach is a failure. They won’t acknowledge that it’s hard to play good defense when two of your best defensive players are on the shelf.
  • The Competition: Like I said this morning, part of the reason the Red Sox have looked so bad over the last week is because their competition has been so good. The Rays don’t look like world beaters simply because they’ve been playing the Sox. They’re really, really good in their own right (I picked them second this year). Same goes for the Twins, who could run away with the AL Central if they keep doing what they’ve been doing. Getting beat by good teams doesn’t mean you’re fatally-flawed. It just means you’re not as good as the other guys.

But you know what? We can sit here and talk about what specifically ails the Sox all afternoon, but ultimately it may not matter. As soon as this game ends the Sox will be six games back of the Rays and 5.5 back of the Yankees. That’s an awful big hole for this early in the season in a division like the AL East.

So can what’s wrong with the Red Sox be fixed? I don’t know, but it may already be a pretty irrelevant question.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.