Red Sox Drop Fourth Straight; Hanley Ramirez Hurt

Hanley Ramirez hurt

Not only did the Red Sox lose for the fourth straight time last night, but even worse is the news that their best hitter, Hanley Ramirez, was hurt and left the game before he even had a chance to bat. The left fielder was injured when he slammed into a padded wall adjacent to the Green Monster while sprinting after a line drive in the first inning of a game they would eventually lose, 5-1, to the Tampa Bay Rays.

After the game, news spread that Ramirez had a sprained left shoulder, news that is not particularly encouraging given the fact that he has already had two operations on this Hanley Ramirez hurtshoulder in the past 8 years. How the team will fill this void appears to be a monumental task. Entering the game, Ramirez led the Sox in home runs with 10, RBIs with 22 and OPS at .949. His .283 batting average was fourth on the team.

Last night’s game came on the heels of being swept at home over the weekend by the New York Yankees. That marked the first time the Bronx Bombers have swept the Sox at Fenway Park since August of 2006, when they did it under Joe Torre.

Sunday night was not without the usual New York-Boston drama. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Yankees starter Adam Warren plunked Hanley Ramirez, and the Red Sox responded two innings later when Edward Mujica hit Jacoby Ellsbury with a 3-0 pitch after the center fielder had singled in each of his first four at-bats. Homeplate umpire Jeff Nelson then issued a warning to both benches as CC Sabathia waddled out of the Yankees’ third-base dugout to stare at Mujica, and the Yankees’ bullpen acted with false machismo as though they would enter the action if it escalated. (Why can’t bullpens just fight in the outfield?  Why bother running all the way to the infield?)

To provide some more depressing news, the last time the Red Sox have led in a game was in the fourth inning of Friday night’s game. Without the offense of Ramirez, they have an uphill climb in front of them.

Mike Napoli Dislocates Finger

Mike Napoli Dislocates FingerRed Sox first baseman Mike Napoli suffered a dislocated left ring finger during Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Napoli drew a one-out walk in the ninth and sustained the injury advancing to second base following a wild pitch.

X-rays came back negative and the dislocation was reset by a White Sox team doctor following the game.

The injury to Napoli does not appear to be serious, but may hinder the slugger over the short-term as he’s likely to battle a fair amount soreness during the healing process.

Mike Carp subbed for Napoli in the bottom of the ninth and failed to corral an errant throw by shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Carp’s inability to handle the throw allowed the winning run to score and allowed fans an opportunity to question whether or not the outcome of the game would have been different if Napoli had not been forced to leave the game due to injury.

The Red Sox offense has been struggling and cannot afford to be without Napoli for an extended period of time. Napoli has been one of the lone bright spots of the offense and currently leads the team in hits, home runs and RBI.

On the season, Napoli is batting .302 with three home runs and nine RBI over 53 at-bats.

An immediate timetable, for Napoli’s return, has not been established. Expect Mike Carp and Daniel Nava to be used at first if/when Napoli is not in the lineup.

Pedroia, Uehara Avoid Disabled List

Pedroia Uehara

On Monday, the Red Sox received great news on two of its best players. The team learned that Dustin Pedroia and Koji Uehara will avoid a stint on the disabled list and will re-join the Red Sox in Chicago for their series against the White Sox.

Both Pedroia and Uehara were examined on Monday and neither had any structural damage. The two players are both listed day-to-day as Boston opens a three-game series against the White Sox today.

Pedroia was sent back to Boston on Sunday with soreness in his wrist. He has been suffering from the injury since April 4, the day of the Red Sox home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Pedroia has gotten off to a slow start this season. In 12 games, he’s hitting .236 with only one RBI.

Pedroia is no stranger to playing with injuries. In 2013, he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb during the first game of the season, but still managed to play in 160 games.

The Red Sox announced in a release Monday that Pedroia underwent an MRI at Massachusetts General Hospital. The MRI revealed inflammation in his left wrist, but no fractures.

Uehara, who hasn’t pitched since April 9, has been dealing with shoulder soreness for the past week. The 39-year-old also underwent an MRI at Massachusetts General Hospital on Monday that revealed no structural damage in his right shoulder.

Uehara has not allowed a run in five one-inning appearances this season. He’s allowed only three hits and has struck out seven.

Prior to the Red Sox game against the New York Yankees on Sunday, Uehara threw off of a flat surface and the team reported no ill effects. Manager John Farrell said that the team would like Uehara to have at least one bullpen session before using him in a game.

The Red Sox also announced Monday that outfielder Shane Victorino, who started the season on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with one of the club’s minor league affiliates later this week.

Middlebrooks Heads for Disabled List

middlebrooks  on the DL

As if the Red Sox weren’t already having enough problems scoring runs, the problem just got worse with this morning’s news that third baseman Will Middlebrooks was placed on the 15 day Disabled List.

An MRI taken of Middlebrooks’ right calf this morning revealed a Grade 1 calf strain, the least serious strain one can have, but nonetheless the Sox decided not to push the slugging third baseman this early in the season. Middlebrooks joins teammate Shane Victorino on the DL.

This loss will severely test the weakened Sox offense. Middlebrooks place on the roster, and likely most of his time at third, will be taken over by infielder Brock Holt, called up from Pawtucket. Holt is an OK utility player, but by no means has Middlebrooks’ thump at the plate.

Both Middlebrooks and Victorino are expected back around April 22 barring complications. With Holt and Jonathan Herrera sharing time at third, the terribly slumping Daniel Nava playing every day, Jackie Bradley playing about half the time, and weak bats behind the plate, the Sox lineup has holes in it up and down.

The timely hitting that marked 2013 has been notably missing in the 5 games to-date. It is far too early to draw long-term conclusions, but the appearance of some booming bats would be welcomed.

Feat without Clay: Sox Prove Mettle sans Buchholz

Buchholz

Long time no see, Clay.

The Red Sox are closing in on a month without Clay Buchholz, and there’s no indication that his return is imminent. John Farrell hasn’t even ruled out a post-All Star re-activation, which would make it a full month and a half without our ace. But don’t tell the rest of the team that.

Unlike many teams would in the same situation, the Sox have played admirably. Some seemingly strong clubs are mediocre teams who go roughly .500 four days out of the week, then chalk up a near-automatic ‘W’ on nights when their ace takes the mound. This doesn’t sound like too impressive a strategy, but a team that does so – roughly .500 when their ace isn’t pitching, closer to 1.000 when he is – ends up with a winning percentage in the .600 neighborhood, only to be unmasked as a fraud by an injury to their messianic star. The Sox have had that savior this year in Buchholz; they’ve lost only one game he’s started, and he hasn’t lost any. But they aren’t slouching when he doesn’t pitch, either.

Since Clay last pitched, the Sox are 11-9, including a couple tough losses in Baltimore and Detroit, which works out to a .550 winning percentage. Over that span, Ryan Dempster and John Lackey have combined for 6 quality starts in 8 outings, including four consecutive performances of 7IP or more and 2 ER or fewer from one-time goat Lackey. The Sox have scored exactly as many runs as they’ve let up, 95 each over 20 games, but despite a minor home run drought, I don’t think anyone would say the bats are slumping: Jacoby Ellsbury is in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak, Pedey and Papi are 3rd and 7th in the American League in hitting, and Jose Iglesias is still over .400. The two series in which the Sox really struggled were against Baltimore and Detroit – series that a Buchholz outing would have totally changed the complexion of. Suffice it to say that on June 8th, the last time we saw Clay Buchholz, the Sox were 1.5 games ahead of New York for first place. Now (albeit with a little help from the Yankees’ coach-turned-pumpkin of a season – bye bye, Texiera), the Sox are 3.5 games ahead of Baltimore. With Jon Lester hopefully on the comeback trail and the offense continuing to rake, the Sox can win without Buchholz. So just imagine what they can do with him.