BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox would like to apologize to mothers across New England, not only for their performance Sunday, which likely spoiled Mother’s Day festivities for some of the die-hard moms out there, but also for their recent struggles as a whole.
Actually, an apology won’t do the trick. What the Red Sox need to do after Sunday’s 12-4 blowout loss to the Toronto Blue Jays is utilize a day off Monday to regroup and rediscover the swagger that made them a force in April. If they can. Boston is 2-8 since a win in Toronto on May 2. The bats have gone quiet. The defense has made mistakes. The bullpen is a mess. And while not bad overall, the starting pitching has looked a little more 2012-ish at times.
This is all before the schedule increases in difficulty with 20 games in 20 days starting Tuesday, 14 of them on the road.
Ryan Dempster got knocked around Sunday, giving up six runs on seven hits -- three of which were home runs -- in five innings. The bullpen provided little support after Dempster left and the offense went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, stretching its slide to 20 straight at-bats without a hit in those situations over two-plus games.
Jose Bautista homered twice and Emilio Bonifacio, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie also went deep for Toronto, which has won nine of its last 12 games at Fenway Park. Blue Jays right-hander Chad Jenkins, an emergency fill-in with a lifetime 4.12 ERA in the minors, threw five solid innings as the Sox were held to four runs or fewer for the eighth time in 11 games.
Here is some of what occurred along the way:
In-Shane in the brain: Shane Victorino has played some very good baseball early in his Red Sox career. If any fans were still waiting to see something special from him before latching on, they got it in the top of the fourth, when Victorino ran full-steam into the wall in right in pursuit of Bonifacio's home run.
Like a slot receiver getting pancaked by a linebacker on a route over the middle, Victorino crumpled onto the warning track and was quickly surrounded by manager John Farrell, members of the training staff and his teammates. To the surprise of many, Victorino finished the inning. The ovation for his toughness was one of the loudest for a Red Sox player all day.
Remember, this is a guy who recently flirted with a DL stint due to back pain.
Late change: Just minutes before the first pitch, the Sox placed catcher David Ross on the seven-day concussion list and recalled Ryan Lavarnway to take his spot. Lavarnway will accompany the team to Tampa Bay, Minnesota and perhaps Chicago.
Ross apparently suffered the injury with one of several foul balls he took off the mask Saturday. He talked with reporters after the game and appeared perfectly fine. There was no mention of the concussion until Sunday afternoon when the team announced the move just before gametime.
Lavarnway was unable to take that next step in his stints with the Sox in 2012, but he’s been hot again at Triple-A and figures to get some starts in the coming week. The 25-year-old is hitting .313 with a pair of homers and 15 RBIs. He also has as many walks (13) as strikeouts (13), a sure sign he is on control at that level.
With some mild whispers that the organization is not entirely keen on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s play, Lavarnway may just need an opening to prove his worth. Not to say a move is imminent, but some debates will surface if Lavarnway does some damage with the big club.
Then again: Since those whispers were heard in the last week or so, Saltalamacchia has gotten hot. He is 9-for-18 with four doubles and a homer in his last six games.
Gust in time: Boston’s first run came in the fourth on a Mike Napoli home run to the top of the camera stand in center field. Napoli obviously has the power, but he may want to give a nod to Mother Nature (how appropriate on Mother’s Day) for this one. The designated hitter on Sunday, Napoli hit the ball a mile high, which enabled it to get caught up in a strong breeze that seemed to kick up right around that time. When the ball landed, several scribes in the press box immediately glanced up above the broadcast booths behind home plate to see a stiff American flag pointing to center.
Shuffling the deck: Games like this one can yield some odd defensive alignments, especially before a day off when managers take advantage of every opportunity to give their regulars some extended rest.
The Sox opened the seventh with a series of alterations. Jonny Gomes, who had hit for Mike Carp in the sixth, went to left field. Daniel Nava moved from left to right to give Victorino a chance to get off his feet. And Pedro Ciriaco went in to play first base, where Carp was.
In his 929th game as a professional, Ciriaco was making his first appearance at first base. And it showed early on. The second out of the seventh was a relatively routine grounder to second, but Ciriaco initially broke toward the ball and not the bag and barely got back in time to take Dustin Pedroia’s throw.
Ciriaco made a couple of nice plays later on and then led off the eighth with his first home run of the season on the first pitch he saw.
Welcome to the bigs: Jose De La Torre made his major league debut for the Sox. The 27-year-old, who was acquired from Cleveland in the memorable Brent Lillibridge trade with Cleveland last July, had a 1.56 ERA with Triple-A Pawtucket. He gave up a double to the first man he faced, walked Bautista on four pitches and allowed a bloop RBI single to Encarnacion before finally getting some outs.
On the mend: Franklin Morales is scheduled to make a rehab appearance with Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday. The lefty has thrown five scoreless innings in a pair of rehab outings on April 17 and May 8, with a shutdown period in between.
Hockey, anyone?: During De La Torre’s less-than-stellar debut, several “Let’s go Bruins” chants broke out at Fenway. Of course, our Joe McDonald is in Toronto and will have that angle covered.