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Closing Time: Doubront, Red Sox offense hit wall in Cleveland

08.09.12 at 10:20 pm ET
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The Indians entered Thursday having lost 11 of their previous 12 contests, falling out of contention in the process. So naturally, the Red Sox lost to them.

The Sox have been extremely competitive against the top teams in the American League in the second half. The team has an 11-8 record against the Yankees, Rangers, Rays and White Sox. But the team has been awful against clubs with losing records, a trend that continued on Thursday night in Cleveland, as the Sox lost, 5-3. The team is now 1-7 against the Blue Jays, Twins and Indians since the All-Star break, teams with three of the five worst records in the AL.

If the Sox were merely .500 against those clubs in the second half, they would now be 58-55, 3 1/2 games behind the Orioles and A’s for the two wild card spots. Instead, the team now finds itself a rudderless 55-58, and sinking quickly to the point where contention has become a longshot.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– For much of the first two months of the season, Felix Doubront had been a stabilizing presence in the rotation. But over the last two months, he’s proven unable to deliver consistent quality starts, and Thursday represented a microcosm of his 2012 trajectory. Though he allowed a solo homer on the first pitch of the game to leadoff man Jason Donald, Doubront settled into a tremendous run over the next 13 outs, allowing just three baserunners and allowing the Sox to take a 3-1 lead.

But in the fifth inning, he crashed, allowing four straight baserunners (a single, a double and two walks), three of whom eventually scored. An outing that had shown considerable promise proved unsustainable, with the left-hander’s night ultimately ending too soon. He was knocked out after 4 1/3 innings and charged with four runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out four. Through his first 11 starts this year, Doubront was 6-2 with a 3.75 ERA. But over his last 11 starts, starting on June 8, he now has a 5.67 ERA, with a 4-4 record over that duration.

Carl Crawford went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, as his scorching six-game hit streak came to a halt. Crawford had been 11-for-27 with a line of .407/.393/.778/1.171 and seven extra-base hits (five doubles, a triple, a homer) during the streak.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 1-for-4 with three more strikeouts, pushing him past 100 whiffs for the year. He has now fanned 101 times in 320 plate appearances, or 31.6 percent of the times he’s stepped to the plate.

– Of the 106 major leaguers with at least 400 plate appearances, Mike Aviles now ranks in the bottom three with a .280 OBP. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Thursday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Adrian Gonzalez continued to pound the ball, slamming a two-run homer (his 12th of the year) as part of a 1-for-3 game in which he also got hit by a pitch. In his last 44 games dating to June 20, Gonzalez is hitting .391/.424/.580/1.004 with seven homers.

Jacoby Ellsbury stole three bases, the fifth time in his career that he has swiped a trio of bases, and the first time he’d done the trick in exactly two years (he stole a career-high four bases on Aug. 9, 2010, against the Yankees). After going 0-for-9 in his previous two games, Ellsbury rebounded by going 1-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout. It was Ellsbury’s first walk in seven games; in the previous six games, he’d gotten on base in just five of 28 plate appearances.

Pedro Ciriaco went 2-for-4 with his fifth double of the year while playing second base for Dustin Pedroia, who served as DH. Ciriaco is making a compelling case for more regular starts in a period where Aviles remains mired in a prolonged struggle.

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