First, there was the disappointing interleague homestand, in which the Red Sox went 3-3, dropping a series to the San Diego Padres before heading out on a 9-game interleague road trip, which so far has not been the most incredible experience ever to happen to Boston baseball fans.
The Sox failed to capitalize on the opportunity to get ahead of NL teams at home, where they still had the advantage of the DH (so much for Youkilis's appeal to get the rules changed...at least, if this year is any indication), but then they headed to Pittsburgh, where surely, the just-recently-barely-over-.500 Pirates would provide some relatively easy fodder before the Red Sox had to take on the league-leading Phils.
But two days later, there was this: the spectre of Pirates fans waving brooms as the Red Sox took the field.
Hence tonight's decision to put Adrian Gonzalez in right field, thereby moving David Ortiz into the lineup via playing first base. With Carl Crawford still out and JD Drew not producing, there has been a precipitous dropoff in the Red Sox lineup once you hit the five-hole. And so you get what we had this past weekend -- LOB, and a general failure to score runs...this from the same team that had been laying a dozen or more runs on opponents during the regular American League schedule just the week before.
We (and the players) can bitch about Interleague Play and its rules all we want, but I fail to see how the rules could be changed so as to confer no advantage whatsoever to either side. The argument I've heard is that while pitchers unused to hitting must enter AL lineups in NL parks, in AL parks, NL teams have the advantage of using an extra position player. But it's not as if NL pitchers tear the cover off the ball even under normal circumstances, or as if NL teams stock DH types who are fully prepared to go out and mash like David Ortiz for the approximate week and a half interleague lasts. There are also ways to try to get around it, as the Red Sox are demonstrating with their lineup moves tonight, and let's not forget the pitching hasn't been exactly all lily-white in this.
And what's the alternative? Play by AL rules at all times? That would hardly go over. Having AL teams retain the DH in the pitchers' spot in NL parks while the NL team keeps the pitcher in the lineup also doesn't seem like the path to a level playing field.
No, the simplest way to do things seems to be as they are already done: when in Rome...and when in an NL park, the pitcher hits. Simple as that.
Me, I don't mind interleague play. I'm not wild about it, either, but I think it's cool to get to see the Red Sox face, say, the Cubs (and if that were ever to happen in World Series I might be too busy hiding in a bunker somewhere, waiting for the inevitable apocalyptic meteor to strike). While it might require some tinkering with the lineups as we've seen, I just don't really follow the argument that the lack of DH is that big of a disadvantage for the Sox -- or at the very least, it begs the question of why the Red Sox with a DH couldn't seem to emerge from the most recent interleague homestand with a winning record.
Anyway, looking at the bigger picture for a second: this is fairly unscientific, granted, but though the phrase "June swoon" is deeply entrenched in the Red Sox vocabulary, there have actually only been two seasons in the last 8 years in which the Red Sox have played sub-.500 baseball in June. I'll give you three guesses as to which years they were.
Do I believe there's a correlation between stinking it up in June and going deep into the postseason? Probably not, although getting hot at the right time is always important. But it's at least proof that the swoon, if indeed we are in its midst, need not be a mortal blow to our hopes for the season.