Commentary

The good news? It can only get better

The Sox come home 0-6 with a reminder for fans: It's a long season

Updated: April 7, 2011, 9:03 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

CLEVELAND -- If this is the reception Dustin Pedroia expects when he returns to his wife and family, imagine what he'll hear in Fenway Park when the 0-6 Red Sox are introduced before their home opener.

"We're going to get home and my wife's going to look at me and say, 'You're 0-6. You guys stink,'" Pedroia said.

At the risk of speaking for Kelly Pedroia, chances are she'll show a little more compassion than that for her frustrated husband. As for the fans, most of whom are too young to remember the last time a Sox team has gotten off to such a sorry start (1945), Pedroia and his teammates remain hopeful that they don't go all turncoat on them. Especially with the despised Yankees sitting in the other dugout.

"I hope we have someone on our side,'' he said. "It's either two feet in now, or two feet out. Let us know, because we're coming.''

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
AP Photo/Tony DejakThe loss wasted a strong performance by Jon Lester, who pitched seven shutout innings and allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out nine.

It's tough to be taking bows when you prolong your losing streak with a pratfall, like the one pinch runner Darnell McDonald took when he slipped and fell rounding second on J.D. Drew's infield hit with two out in the ninth and the Red Sox down, 1-0. No telling whether the Sox would have come back to win had McDonald kept his feet -- a .159 average (7-for-44) with runners in scoring position suggests that's wishful thinking. But as a metaphor for the way the Sox have opened the season, McDonald's tumble ranks right there with the suicide squeeze by Asdrubal Cabrera that beat them Thursday.

Sox fans have been known to show intolerance on what is supposed to be a festive occasion. Carl Crawford, who will be introduced Friday from the first-base dugout for the first time as a member of the Sox, was the direct cause of the last hostile outpouring at a Sox home opener. That was in 2003, when the new members of the Sox bullpen were booed, most notably Chad Fox, after he had given up a walk-off three-run home run to Crawford in the season opener. Didn't matter that the Sox won the next three against the Rays. The relievers still got heckled.

No one expects a firing squad at dawn to be part of Friday's pregame festivities, but John Lackey, who gave up nine runs in his start in Texas and is facing the Yankees on Friday afternoon, should probably be grateful that he'll be warming up in the 'pen when the team is introduced.

"I think most Red Sox fans are smart enough to know it's a long season,'' reliever Daniel Bard said. "If they give up on us now, they've got more problems than we do. And I don't think that's the case.''

No one, of course, imagined that the problems would pile this high already for the team that had "Best Team Ever?" trappings pinned on it before it had even played a game, grand expectations that Yankees GM Brian Cashman was more than happy to inflate.

In Texas, the Sox were outslugged by the Rangers, who hit a staggering 11 home runs in three games. In Cleveland, the Red Sox showed no lack of imagination in finding ways to lose, especially the last two games. Thursday afternoon trumped them all, the Sox losing, 1-0, on Cabrera's squeeze in the eighth inning after Bard walked one of baseball's weakest hitters, Adam Everett, to open the inning.

(That is no exaggeration of Everett's futility at the plate. Of all the active players with at least 2,000 at-bats, only two have a lower OPS [on-base plus slugging percentage] than Everett's .642.)

"Kind of a recipe for disaster,'' Francona said.

Just as Dennys Reyes' entrance the night before -- two hit batsmen and a walk -- had also been the prelude to calamity.

"Can't do that in that situation,'' Bard said. "I was good in the 'pen but couldn't quite find it right out of the gate. Can't do that, especially to the 9-hole guy.''

Bard then fell behind the next hitter, Orlando Cabrera, 2-and-0, even though Cabrera was trying to bunt Everett over, prompting a visit from pitching coach Curt Young. Everett then took off for second base and stole easily, Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throw sailing into center field. Cabrera bunted Everett to third, and Cabrera II (no relation) pushed a perfect squeeze down the third-base line.

Francona said the squeeze came as no surprise. Bard? "I didn't see it coming at all. Nobody told me anything. He didn't square around the first three pitches. I didn't know why he would there.''

Add faulty communication to the list of what's ailing the Sox. The night before, third baseman Kevin Youkilis didn't let catcher Jason Varitek know he'd stepped on third base with the bases loaded, taking off the force, before throwing home, and Varitek let a run score uncontested (though as Varitek said later, he should have tagged him just to make sure).

[+] EnlargeDaniel Bard
AP Photo/Tony DejakDaniel Bard allowed the game-winning run in the eighth inning and took the loss Thursday.

"A near perfect bunt,'' Youkilis said. "Can't do anything about it. The way things are going right now, it's not unexpected.

"It can't get any worse than this. There's only one way to go,'' he said.

The loss wasted a terrific pitching performance by Jon Lester, who matched zeroes for seven innings with Fausto Carmona, allowing just three hits and three walks while striking out nine. Carmona, meanwhile, allowed just singles by Jacoby Ellsbury in the third and Marco Scutaro in the fifth while walking two and whiffing four.

"Right now, we're just not living right,'' Lester said.

They clearly aren't hitting. The team is batting .181. Youkilis comes home with a .105 average, hitless in his last 14 at-bats. Saltalamacchia has one hit in 14 at-bats. Ellsbury was 0-for-15 until his third-inning single. Crawford has four singles in his first five games, though he hit a ball in the sixth inning Thursday that would have left the premises if not for the arctic conditions. As a team, the Sox have four home runs, matching the number hit by Yankees strongman Mark Teixeira.

"One of those things right now, it doesn't matter who's hitting, we're just not catching any breaks,'' Youkilis said. "A lot of time that spirals out of control, so we've got to put a halt to it, go home, and luckily we have our fans. We have great fans who will bring us out of this.''

At a nearby locker, David Ortiz held his face in his hands. "Unbelievable,'' he muttered.

How will the fans react Friday?

"They'll be fine,'' Ortiz said. "There's not two Red Sox teams, just one. So you got to cheer for this one if you're a Red Sox fan, right?''

But this one bears scant resemblance to the team that fans thought they'd be welcoming home Friday.

"I'm frustrated,'' Pedroia said. "We all are. We all went to bed at 3 o'clock. We don't just put our heads on the pillow at 11:30, go to sleep and say everything's great. We got 15 All-Stars and whatever the hell we got. That's not how it is. This is our lives.

"[But] we're going to win a lot more games than we're going to lose, I can tell you that," he said. "We ain't going to be 0-162 or whatever many games we play. We're going to figure it out.''

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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