BALTIMORE – When Rafael Devers hit a two-run homer to right field in the third inning of Game 1 of this 10-game road trip for the Red Sox last Friday, no one knew at the time that it was something they were to savor.
After all, how could anyone have imagined that a team typically associated with power could hit a slump not seen in 21 years?
On Thursday, in Boston’s 1-0 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Center, the Red Sox lost for the fifth time in their last six meetings. It was also the sixth straight game in which the Red Sox didn’t homer. The last time something like this happened, Jimy Williams was managing the Red Sox and Manny Ramirez led the lineup. That chain of six matches was between April 11 and 16, 2001.
The next night, Ramírez hit two homers, Brian Daubach and Carl Everett also took her out, and the Red Sox thrashed the Rays 10-0 at Tropicana Field.
That was a long time ago. But the Red Sox hope history repeats itself Friday night at Camden Yards, the last stop on what has been a tough road trip so far.
“Those things happen,” said Devers, Boston’s best power hitter. “We know we are good hitters. From top to bottom, we are good hitters. Those things are going to happen from time to time, but we are ready to pick up.”
After 20 games, the 8-12 Red Sox have hit just 11 homers. That puts them on pace to hit 89 in a 162-game season. Only the Orioles and Tigers have hit fewer homers than Boston in the Major Leagues.
It’s basically certain that the Red Sox, who hit 219 homers in 2021, will finish well over 100, if nothing else.
But that does not make the current situation any easier. The Red Sox, who hit it big last year, are already 5.5 games out of the lead in the ultra-competitive AL East.
A good week or two can fix that. And also give a shower of home runs. So why isn’t a team with so many power hitters giving up extra-base hits?
“I don’t know, honestly,” said Puerto Rican Alex Cora, manager of the Red Sox. “We’re going to hit home runs. That will be part of our game. We’re doing a better job of swinging pitches into the zone. We’re not throwing much at the bad balls. With that, the home runs are going to come.”
The wonder of home runs is that the opposing defense can’t catch them. And for that, the return of homers will likely be the quickest remedy for Boston’s current hitting woes.
“Of course, that would be a tremendous help (home runs), but that’s not what’s going to define us as a team, big hits,” Devers added. “I think we’re going to keep working hard.”
Devers and Alex Verdugo currently lead the team in home runs with three each. Although Xander Bogaerts (.392) started hot at the plate, he has only one homer. It also hasn’t helped that JD Martinez has appeared in just six of the team’s last eight games due to a strained left leg. The star DH has hit just one home run in his first 54 at-bats.
Puerto Rican Enrique Hernandez hit 20 homers last season, mostly as the leadoff hitter. He has only one so far, as he has been moved around in the lineup.
The Red Sox added a strong slugger in Trevor Story, though the infiender hasn’t homered in his first 58 at-bats with his new team.
“I don’t think we’re necessarily thinking about home runs,” right fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said. “Obviously, we’ve hit some good balls and they haven’t gone away. But I’m not going to sit here complaining.”
But when those balls start flying over the fence again for the Red Sox, their fortunes should start to change significantly.