When Kevin Youkilis went down yesterday with an ankle injury, one that seems to be blessedly minor, were any of you really surprised? This kind of random injury is almost common-place these days. 2010 has been the Year of the Crutch in Boston.
Here is the 2010 starting lineup most people projected for the Red Sox:
C: Victor Martinez | 1B: Kevin Youkilis | 2B: Dustin Pedroia | SS: Marco Scutaro | 3B: Adrian Beltre | LF: Jacoby Ellsbury | CF: Mike Cameron | RF: JD Drew | DH: David Ortiz
Here is the lineup the Sox used last night in Tampa:
C: Kevin Cash | 1B: Kevin Youkilis | 2B: Bill Hall | SS: Marco Scutaro | 3B: Adrian Beltre | LF: Daniel Nava | CF: Eric Patterson | RF: JD Drew | DH: David Ortiz
Not too pretty, is it? Only two players, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro, have played as many as 80 or more games at their position. Jeremy Hermida has played the most games in left this year (41) and he's injured as well. Your leading centerfielder? Say hi to Darnell McDonald (45 games). And only three starting pitchers (Lackey, Lester and Buchholz) have started 15 or more games. And Buchholz is injured now, joining Beckett on the sidelines.
It's at a point now where we have a guy named Niuman Romero playing second base and Eric Patterson playing almost as many games in left field (4) as Jacoby Ellsbury has played there all year (6). In short, it's a triage center in the Boston locker room. Which makes it all the more remarkable that Boston is still in the AL East race.
Here's the biggest difference between Boston and New York. As of Lester's win over the O's a few nights ago, Boston had lost 434 man-games to injuries. The Yankees over the same period have lost just 197. It's not a minor difference; those injuries have forced the Sox to play people out of position, make bench players starters and call up rookies for extended periods of time. And despite that, the Sox are just 3.5 games out of first place. If Boston can hang on and not fall completely out of the race, they could have a huge surge once most of these guys come back.
Of course, that's the trick. Boston has lost back-to-back one run games with the Rays. The kind of games they'd be more likely to win with an intact lineup. This is their big challenge, and it is a hard one.