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Red Sox have big-time trust issues

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / July 8, 2012
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If you’re the Red Sox, do you dwell on the exhilaration of the nightcap victory Saturday over the Yankees when a couple of minor league free agents combined for five RBIs, or do you remember the frustration that permeated on the faces of everyone in the organization after losing Game 1?

The game plan is often hard to navigate with this team.

Manager Bobby Valentine wasn’t happy after the opening 6-1 loss. Team president/CEO Larry Lucchino, who helped the cleanup crew at Fenway between games, seemed frustrated but decided to keep quiet about the loss.

In the first game, you heard what a terrible lineup the Sox had with Mauro Gomez and Pedro Ciriaco in it. And then after the 9-5 win in Game 2, it was, “How about that offense?” — which was led by terrific offensive performances by Gomez and Ciriaco.

So which is it?

Which Red Sox team do you trust?

If you’re general manager Ben Cherington or Valentine or Lucchino, you have to think the team needs a shake-up after dropping the first two games of the series to the Yankees. It’s time for a kick in the pants, major changes.

Trade one of the big-name pitchers for someone who can spark this team.

You think back to when Theo Epstein dealt Nomar Garciaparra at the trading deadline in 2004, a move that helped win a championship.

We suggested in this space a few weeks back that the Sox deal Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, and whatever else it would take to get Felix Hernandez. Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik has since reiterated he’s not dealing King Felix.

Trade Josh Beckett, 10-5 rights or not.

Do something.

That’s how you felt after Saturday’s opener. It was painful to watch. The latest player to let the Sox down was Franklin Morales, a guy who had made three impeccable starts. He allowed four home runs in 3 innings and left after giving up six runs.

He allowed four first-inning runs the day after Beckett was roughed up for five in the first. Then Felix Doubront allowed three runs in the first inning in the second game and you’re wondering, what is it with the first inning for this staff?

There was little buzz or electricity in the ballpark in the opener, even with the Yankees in town. People came late and left early. That picked up with more excitement in the night game.

You never want to overreact to each snapshot in a season, but after the Red Sox had lost five out of seven games and the first two to the Yankees it was clear that this team needed an energy boost.

Playing the Yankees should prevent the team from coming out flat. We understand the Sox have been dealing with a huge number of injuries. But the Yankees are playing without two starting pitchers (Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia), their left fielder (Brett Gardner), and the greatest closer who ever lived (Mariano Rivera) and they’ve managed to build a comfortable lead in the American League East.

Doubront got his act together and pitched into the seventh to get the win, responding a lot better than Morales. And although Beckett pitched better after the first inning Friday night, the so-called ace of the staff couldn’t get past the fifth. The Red Sox are 15-16 in games started by Beckett, Lester, and Clay Buchholz since May 4, and that’s not the way it was drawn up at the start of the year.

We keep writing that this team is waiting for its big-time players to come back.

Carl Crawford, who has somehow managed to incur two injuries (elbow and now groin) while rehabbing his wrist, has suffered a setback, while Ellsbury keeps rehabbing and rehabbing and rehabbing in the minors. If he can play in the minors, why can’t he play here?

They are all questions that result in the frustration of the snapshot, and it can only be rectified with positive results.

Pitching coach Bob McClure is under a microscope these days. He said the first-inning problems are caused more by pitch location than preparation issues. He said that when pitchers can’t find their fastballs early, they have to adjust by pitching backward, emphasizing offspeed pitches more.

He said Morales’s ball was cutting rather than tailing and attempts to solve it were unsuccessful. But McClure is not ready to associate the recent run of first-inning problems as an epidemic, just as he downplayed a stretch of games when Boston pitchers were balking. McClure said at the time that you may not see another balk the rest of the season and so far he’s been right on that one.

The Sox have, for the most part, done well to stay afloat, but every so often you need a jolt. There’ll be plenty of deals made between the All-Star break and the trade deadline and the Red Sox need to be one of the teams ready to pounce.

They need to excite their team and their fan base. They need a difference-maker.

In 2004, with the team 10 games over .500, Epstein made the big move and traded one of the best players to come through their farm system in Garciaparra, who dominated the league at his position for a few years. But the deal gave them defense (Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz) and speed (Dave Roberts), and it wound up sparking them to a championship.

The nightcap was fun, winning with Gomez and Ciriaco, but do you trust it?

The answer should be: Don’t be fooled by Game 2.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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