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Trouble in Beantown?

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Don’t go throwing away those Boston Red Sox futures tickets you may have dropped a few dollars on over the winter, but there’s certainly major cause for concern in Beantown following a one-sided four-game sweep at the hands of visiting Tampa Bay. It was the Rays’ first sweep ever of at least a three-game set in Fenway.

At 4-9, the Red Sox are off to their worst start since opening 1996 at 2-11. The Sox were an incredible 0 for 30 with runners in scoring position during the series, in which they were outscored 24-9 and never led. Boston, which last got a hit with a guy on second or third base last Wednesday, is already six games behind the first-place Rays (and 5.5 behind the hated Yankees). The Red Sox have lost six consecutive games at home, their longest Fenway skid since a 12-game streak in the middle of the 1994 season. They had won six in a row on Patriots’ Day.

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It’s probably time to cut bait with David Ortiz, who is hitting .158 with two RBIs and 15 strikeouts. It was very telling that Boston manager Terry Francona didn’t play Ortiz in Sunday’s game against Rays right-handed starter Matt Garza. If the left-handed hitting Ortiz is sitting against righties, then the end might well be near. Red Sox fans are calling for Jeremy Hermida to be the lefty-hitting DH option. Shoot, Ortiz is having such a bad run of it that he was just sued by Jay-Z for allegedly poaching the name of Jay-Z’s 40/40 sports lounges for Ortiz’s establishment in the Dominican Republic.

Really the news is bad everywhere on this team. Jon Lester (0-2, 8.44 ERA) was bombed Sunday, allowing seven runs in six innings. He is 2-5 with a 5.29 ERA in his career in April. He's the first Red Sox starter in 60 years to allow at least four earned runs and three walks in his first three starts of a season. Big free agent acquisition John Lackey had been pretty good but then allowed eight runs and nine hits in only 3 1/3 innings in Monday’s Patriots’ Day loss. Red Sox starters now have a cumulative 5.18 ERA.

In four of the past five games, Boston has been down at least 4-0 by the fifth inning and often much earlier. J.D. Drew (.146, 17 Ks) is in a 2-for-24 slump, Kevin Youkilis is in a 1-for-19 hole, Mike Cameron might have another kidney stone and Jacoby Ellsbury remains out of the lineup with bruised ribs, although he should be back soon.

"Nobody is going to feel sorry for us,'' Francona said. "We kind of dug our own hole, so we're going to have to dig ourselves out.”

Is it actually possible that Francona could now be on the hot seat? Certainly someone will have to pay for this start if it doesn’t change soon. On the positive side, Dustin Pedroia is crushing the ball and Josh Beckett allowed just three earned runs in his last 14 innings while striking out 12. And the schedule is pretty manageable over the next few weeks, with home series vs. the Rangers and Orioles followed by visits to Toronto and Baltimore. But then Boston might have a make-or-break homestand with games against the Angels, Yankees and Blue Jays. If the Sox are still scuffling when the Yanks are in town, then Red Sox Nation will be going bonkers.

  
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