For about 10 seconds in the eighth inning Tuesday night, the music stopped. Actually, the crowd noise stopped.
Someone seemed to unplug whatever wire that was allowing the iPad full of cheers and boos, oohs and aahs, leaving Fenway Park with just utter silence. There was still about 30 minutes or so until the Red Sox officially dropped their fourth in a row, losing to the Mets, 8-3, in the teams' series finale. But this one serene moment offered what could be construed as perfect punctuation to the homestand.
Enough of the noise. The Red Sox need to find results.
"It’s been tough," said Red Sox outfielder Kevin Pillar. "Playing with an organization like this, everything we’ve gone through, Spring Training 1. Spring Training 2. We had high expectations to go out there and win. I’d be lying to you if I said it’s not different. I think players that get an opportunity to call this home, even me as a player who came here so often as a visiting player, you’re so accustomed to the unique atmosphere that this stadium brings, the fans, the energy in this ballpark. It’s taken some guys a little bit of time to adjust to that. I think getting out on the road might be good for this team. I don’t think anyone is feeling sorry for ourselves. I don’t think anyone is too overly concerned about our start. But this was definitely a wakeup call for us needing to come out offensively, push some runs across, do the little things better on the basepaths, play some cleaner defense and hopefully, we’ll turn it around on the road."
Then Pillar finished his postgame media session with the perfect synopsis.
"The times for making excuses is over," he said. "This is baseball in 2020. We have to find a way to make the best of it."
It's strange to think that this is the second straight season the Red Sox have started 1-4. Why? Because there seemed to be hope even after those first five games in 2019 with five no-doubt-about-it starting pitchers and one of the American League's best lineups. Sure enough, by the time the 60th game came around Alex Cora's team was in the first Wild Card position.
After this start, however, it's hard to muster any optimism. Not leading for a single inning since Friday will do that.
And while it's easy to simply point to the Red Sox' plan for their starting pitching or lack thereof, it's still early enough to at least see if some solutions might be uncovered. It's not an easy task, but one worth the old college try:
NO MORE OPENERS
Sure, Chaim Bloom can point to the strategy's moderate success in Tampa Bay. And the lack of proven starters after losing Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez might suggest this is the best way to go. But it doesn't seem like the Red Sox have a good enough grasp on their personnel or the concept, in general, to make this result in much more than what we witnessed the last four days.
START COLTEN BREWER, ZACK GODLEY
Part of the process that came with these first five games was trying to figure out who could do what. It wasn't a huge sample size, but there were some legitimate takeaways. First off, Brewer seemed to be one of the few Red Sox pitchers who had no problem controlling his hitters, a trait that he showed as far back as Spring Training 1.0 and hasn't really let go of since. He has now pitched four innings, given up just two hits and struck out six. The righty hasn't really started since Single-A in 2016, but this necessitates creative thinking. And Godley? He looked good and has a track record as a major league starter. That's better than any other alternative.
START IDENTIFYING ROLES
Part of the problem with having this many pitchers, with this kind of approach with the openers is that the relievers aren't able to secure their favorite thing: certainty. Most relief pitchers are creatures of habit, liking to know around the time in the game they are going to pitch and which type of hitters they are going to pitch against. Brandon Workman is the closer. Matt Barnes is the chief set-up guy. Start figuring out the order after those two. And when Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez do return -- which Ron Roenicke said will still be a ways off -- ease them in instead of assuming they will pick up where they left off.
MITCH MORELAND SHOULD BE THE STARTING FIRST BASEMAN
For a second game this season, Moreland started the game on the bench one day after hitting a home run. In this 60-game season that just can't be, especially when you're playing a player who is in the type of slump Michael Chavis (0-for-9, 5 strikeouts) finds himself.
RIDE ALL THE HOT HANDS
Moreland is just one example. This version of Kevin Pillar needs to play. He has been your best overall outfielder. Jackie Bradley Jr. sits not too far behind, although Tuesday night his swing wasn't what it was during the previous games. They should play. Alex Verdugo and Andrew Benintendi? For the next couple of games, they are the ones earning the playing time until someone else cools off. Lefty. Righty. It shouldn't matter. Hot bat, you play.
BUMP J.D. MARTINEZ DOWN
After some initial success, Martinez doesn't look comfortable in the No. 2 spot. The problem is that Xander Bogaerts doesn't want to move up there either. Here's a solution. With right-handed-hitting Jose Peraza in the leadoff spot (or Pillar if he stays hot), there is an opportunity to bump up Rafael Devers into that two-hole he has thrived in. Then you go Martinez, Moreland and Bogaerts. Roenicke shouldn't need pages of analytics to figure this one out. It has worked before and can work again. And here's an educated guess to accompany the product of such a move: Devers feels comfy at the plate, he feels comfier in the field.
MANAGE WITH SOME DESPERATION
Whether it's going against the long-term view that analytics can sometimes supply, or pulling a pitcher a bit early knowing the rosters a bit chunkier, it's time for Roenicke to start treating this like a September pennant race. So far, it hasn't felt that way.
FIND A WAY TO TRADE FOR BRUSDAR GRATEROL
Every time this guy pitches for the Dodgers it just buries the dagger a little deeper for the Red Sox. He is, after all, the pitcher the Sox originally agreed to receive as part of the Mookie Betts/David Price trade but decided Graterol's physical standing wasn't good enough.