Make Way For Ducklings: too many Sox on the pond

The Red Sox should take a cue — and some inspiration — from the iconic "Make Way For Ducklings"
series of statues by Nancy Schön in the Boston Public Garden

Jan-Christian Sorensen
Contributing Writer

Suddenly, it looks as though the Red Sox need to crib a page from Robert McCloskey’s endearing 1941 children’s book Make Way For Ducklings.

On May 3 the Sox were 20-9 and sitting in the AL East catbird seat, 2.5 games up on the Yankees and 3.5 on top of Baltimore. Entering Sunday’s game against the basement-bound Jaybirds, the Sox are 21-14, have lost seven of their last nine games and are now tied with Baltimore in second place, one game back of the Yankees.

The swift reversal of fortune can be attributed in part to the numbers of ducks the team is leaving on the pond of late: over the past ten games the Sox are a feeble .179 (15-for-84) with runners in scoring position and have left a whopping 77 men on base.

The metrics are pretty simple, even for the most novice of fans: if you ain’t bringing ‘em in, you ain’t scoring the runs.

And you ain't winning the games.

On Saturday the Sox were a dispiriting 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and stranded eight men on the bags in a 3-2 loss to the Jays. Boston scored two runs (one on an error by the shortstop Kawasaki) in the bottom of the eighth to tie it up and the Jays got a go-ahead run on an Adam Lind homer in the ninth before the Sox again squandered a perfect opportunity to tie — or win — the game in the ninth: Will Middlebrooks doubled to begin the inning, but neither Stephen Drew (line out), Daniel Nava (pop out) nor Jacoby Ellsbury (ground out) could take advantage.

After the game, Sox manager John Farrell hinted at some discontent in the dugout over the recent problems the team has had in delivering the offensive trifecta: putting men on, moving them over and driving them in.

“We create and continually create opportunities for ourselves,” he said. “Multiple times, multiple innings. Yeah, there’s a little frustration there, but I can’t say it’s causing the guys to come out of their approach. You have to give credit where (it’s) due. (Toronto starter Mark) Buehrle made a number of quality pitches with runners in scoring position.”

On May 4, en route to a 5-1 loss in Texas, the Sox were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The next day, in a tight, 4-3 loss to the Rangers, Boston stranded seven and was 0-for-5 with RISP. On May 10 the Sox were 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position but still managed to leave ten men on base in a 5-3 loss to the Twins.

And when the Sox aren’t leaving men on base or in scoring position, they’re not even getting them there in the first place: on May 7 in a 6-1 loss to Minnesota, the Sox didn’t get a runner past first until the ninth, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered.

On May 8 — when the Twins put up a touchdown on the Sox in a 15-8 rout — the Sox fared a bit better on the bases, going 3-for-9 with RISP and Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew and Shane Victorino all combining to drive in six runs with two out. However, the Sox still stranded seven men and pitching couldn’t hold the fort early, giving up eleven runs in the first two frames to put the game — really, most games — out of reach no matter how many batters the Sox might have been able to cash in.

On May 9 in a 5-3 loss to Minnesota the Sox were at it again, going 3-for-6 with RISP but leaving 10 on base throughout the game. While an error by starter John Lackey eventually cost him the win, it didn’t need to cost the Sox the game.

And even though five runs were enough in Jon Lester’s masterful one-hit, 5-0 shutout over the Jays on Friday night, the Sox were still a pitiful 3-for-17 with RISP and left nine aboard.

It’s not quite panic-button time: the Sox are still second in the league in OPB (.343) and fourth overall in RBI (173) but this past week has highlighted some serious issues when it comes to timely, productive hitting.

Just as Mrs. Mallard led her eight ducklings through the Boston city streets and to a new dwelling in the Public Garden in McCloskey’s book, the Sox have to find a way to lead more of their own boys home if they’re going to crack this ugly streak and climb back atop the standings.

Twitter: jan_doh