Cora's fix for Sox's slump: 'We have to start producing runs'

May 19th, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- There were some clear moments of misfortune for the Red Sox in a frustrating 7-2 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday night at Busch Stadium.

There was Romy Gonzalez trying to jump-start a rally for his team’s struggling offense in the top of the eighth inning, only to get thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. His swim move into second nearly worked, but the call stood after a review.

There was Rob Refsnyder, one of the most fundamentally sound players on the club, trying to field a ground-ball single in right field but instead having it tick off his glove and go all the way to the wall, allowing an extra run to score to cap a five-run eighth inning for the Cardinals that snapped 2-2 tie. A tie which had been created on a pinch-hit, RBI double by Refnsyder in the top half of the frame.

There was rookie Rule 5 Draft pick Justin Slaten immediately handing back the momentum after the equalizing double by giving up four straight hits to start the bottom of the eighth.

Really, though, those moments were only glaring because of a theme that has been recurring for over two weeks.

The Red Sox have lost 11 of their 15 games since May 2, mainly because they’ve stopped hitting, especially with runners in scoring position.

“I think at the end of the day, we’ve got to score runs. Can’t play these games all the time,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “[Close] games all the way, it puts pressure on the bullpen. At one point, we have to start producing runs.”

During their 4-11 stretch, the Sox have a .161 batting average with runners in scoring position, the worst in the Majors. Their .607 OPS with runners in scoring position is fifth worst. And Boston has scored 47 runs in its past 15 games, fourth fewest in the Majors.

To Cora, the Gonzalez play was the perfect example of the stress the lack of firepower is putting on the team.

“Kind of trying to do more,” Cora said. “Obviously they were playing deeper, no doubles [defense]. The kid made a great play, but that’s what happens. The effort was great. If they call him safe, the call stands. At the same time, slow it down. We don’t have to [try to] do more. We’ll talk about it.”

Even as Rafael Devers went deep for the fourth straight night, there was little for the star slugger to feel good about, given the four-game losing streak coinciding with his long ball binge.

“Obviously, I feel good about the home runs. But at the same time, we're not winning, so it's kind of bittersweet,” Devers said. “The swing feels good, but at the same time, if we’re not winning, it’s just pointless.”

Instead of solo homers, Devers would like to deliver with runners in scoring position. In the first inning, the Red Sox had runners on first and third and one out and he struck out.

Devers is putting up his usual solid overall numbers (.284 average, eight homers, .918 OPS). But with runners in scoring position, Devers has a slash line of .182/.325/.424 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 40 plate appearances.

“I need to make an adjustment, obviously,” said Devers. “I like to hit with men in scoring position and I haven’t been able to do that with men in scoring position. I need to make that adjustment, obviously. That gets me a little bit frustrated. But at the same time, we just need to keep working.”

And hope that the work eventually turns into a batch of timely hits.

The Red Sox continue to get solid starting pitching on most nights. Kutter Crawford grinded on Saturday, but he allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings. He has a 2.17 ERA, yet Boston is 3-7 in his starts.

“It’s baseball,” said Crawford. “We're struggling a little bit as a team, obviously. But I think it's only a matter of time before we start clicking on all cylinders.”

As the Sox left Busch Stadium on Saturday night, it was with the hope that the elusive breakout game would come Sunday afternoon.

“Devers keeps hitting home runs,” said Refsnyder. “We need to get guys on base for our big guy. Everyone is trying to make it happen. Everyone cares and everyone wants to win. Guys are probably pressing, but we’ve got to slow down and hopefully it starts [Sunday].”