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5 fixes to get Red Sox back on track

Boston drops Patriots' Day finale to Orioles
@IanMBrowne
April 15, 2019

BOSTON -- For the Red Sox, there wasn’t much need to reflect on the first homestand of the season, which concluded with an 8-1 loss to the Orioles on Patriots’ Day that dropped the defending World Series champions to 6-11. The homestand was what it was -- some good, some

BOSTON -- For the Red Sox, there wasn’t much need to reflect on the first homestand of the season, which concluded with an 8-1 loss to the Orioles on Patriots’ Day that dropped the defending World Series champions to 6-11.

The homestand was what it was -- some good, some bad and a 3-3 record.

There is much more important business ahead. And that’s a big five-game road trip that includes the two teams (the Yankees and Rays) the Red Sox plan on competing with in the American League East all season.

Already 6 1/2 games behind the Rays in the division, the Red Sox know they can’t allow the deficit to keep piling up.

“We’ve got two division rivals,” said shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who scored the Sox's lone run on Steve Pearce's groundout in the fifth inning. “We’ve got two stronger opponents, we’re playing away, we’ve just got to go in like we normally do, handle our business and play the best we can and really rack up the wins pretty quick.”

The Orioles were able to salvage a split of the four-game series, taking advantage in the finale of a Boston team which deployed a sixth starter on an innings limit (Hector Velázquez) and had to go with a makeshift lineup -- Christian Vázquez at second base, for example.

In the spirit of Monday’s Boston Marathon, the Red Sox will remind themselves that, fortunately, the baseball season is not a sprint. Sure, it’s been a difficult start. But there are 145 games left.

The next one is Tuesday night in the Bronx, when ace Chris Sale (0-3, 9.00 ERA) attempts to shake out of his early-season slump.

Fixing Sale

Getting Sale back on track is tops on Boston’s agenda, and it can check it off the list right away if things go well on Tuesday night.

Sale has struggled to put hitters away with his slider, and he generated just two swings and misses with his fastball all season. Once the slider is fixed, Sale’s fastball -- even if the velocity is a little lower at this stage of the season -- should start getting more misses.

Fixing Mookie

Nobody sets the tone of the Red Sox more than Mookie Betts. Last year’s AL Most Valuable Player Award winner is a spark in every way when he is right.

So far this season, Betts has not been quite right, particularly at the plate. Betts is hitting .222 with three homers and seven RBIs. His OPS is a pedestrian .737.

Betts is getting angry with himself.

“There have been many times where I can help score runs or do something and I haven’t done it,” Betts said. “I take full ownership of that. Basically what I’m doing is unacceptable. I have to figure out a way to get something done and help the team.”

Fixing Pedroia

It’s great that Dustin Pedroia is healthy again. Now the Red Sox need him to start hitting. The second baseman has looked strong in the field in his return from the injured list. But at the plate, Pedroia is 2-for-19 (.105 average) and doesn’t have an extra-base hit. Most of it can probably be chalked up to the fact that he's still getting his timing back after missing all but three games last season.

Fixing the offense

It isn’t just Pedroia and Betts. As a unit, the Red Sox aren’t clicking like they did last year. They’ve gone homerless in six of the first 17 games, and they are 0-6 in those games. The Sox are a more respectable 6-5 when they go deep.

“I mean, there’s a lot of searching throughout the lineup,” said manager Alex Cora. “We have some good games and then we don’t. So it hasn’t been as consistent as we know we can be. There are a few guys that are searching. Keep working at it. We haven’t been able to put good at-bats together in certain games, so today was a perfect example. We’ll find it and keep working at it. But I think it’s just that not everybody is clicking at the same time.”

Fixing health

To be at their best, the Red Sox need to get healthier. Jackie Bradley Jr. (flu) and Andrew Benintendi (right foot contusion) were unavailable on Monday. After the game, Cora wasn’t sure if they’d be ready to go for the first game in New York, either.

While Boston’s health ailments don’t even come close to matching the Yankees, a full lineup will give the Red Sox a much better chance of getting back on track.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.