The Red Sox seriously need more production from the leadoff spot.

It won’t solve all their problems, but the Red Sox need more from the top spot to fuel their offense.

The Red Sox’s 2-3-4 hitters (Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez) have been, unsurprisingly, their only consistent offensive players this season. In fact, for all their offensive shortcomings, the Red Sox, with that trio, are the only team in baseball to have three players batting .290 or better before Monday.

But the Red Sox aren’t regularly setting the table for them.

From first place, the Red Sox rank 26th in baseball with a .269 on-base percentage and 25th with a .577 OPS. That’s a far cry from that venue’s production last season, specifically from Kiké Hernández. After a slow start last year, the center fielder resumed his place at the top of the lineup in late June and hit .271 with a .374 OBP and .876 OPS in his last 73 games. He became a monster in the postseason, when he slashed .408/.423/.837 with a 1.260 OPS in 11 games.

Obviously, those October numbers are unrealistic to sustain for an entire season, but the Red Sox are nowhere near that regular-season production. Hernandez started the season as a leadoff hitter before losing it to Trevor Story, but neither of them have fired up the offense the way the Red Sox need.

“That’s what we deal with on a daily basis,” manager Alex Cora said over the weekend. “We always talk. If you think about it, when an offense develops, probably three guys are hot and someone else contributes. Right now, it looks like we have two good guys and the others have stuff. When I do the lineup, I love hitting Raffy second because it’s more at-bats with him. He is one of our best hitters and you can protect him, being left-handed against right-handed. But how are we going to get traffic in front of it? How are we going to do that? So far, obviously with the struggles we’ve had, it’s been tough.”

Bogaerts has been by far the Red Sox’s best hitter in the first month. The shortstop’s .343 average ranks tied for fourth in the majors and his .393 OBP ranks in the Top 10 in the American League. Has there been any consideration for putting Bogaerts in the top spot?

“Not yet,” Cora said.

As Cora pointed out, first place is not the only problem. When they get into situations with running backs, they’re among the worst in baseball, an indictment for anyone in the lineup not named Devers, Bogaerts and Martinez. His OPS ranks 29th in baseball with runners in scoring position and RISP with two outs, and 27th in any situation with runners on base.

“I think it’s in general,” Cora said. “You start once in the game, but we haven’t been able to create traffic against the big boys from there or from the bottom of the lineup. That’s where we are now. When we have traffic, we have not been successful in driving them. I think the only way we’ve been driving in races is sac flies. I think we have like 17 or 18 this season. But this is where we are now. We just have to improve overall. There are a lot of things that we’re not doing well offensively, and that’s why we’re in this hole.”

Houses without haste

First base remains one of the Red Sox’s biggest problems. His .413 OPS from the position is the last in baseball. Bobby Dalbec’s struggles have been alarming and Franchy Cordero hasn’t produced much in limited playing time.

But don’t expect Triston Casas to save the day anytime soon.

The Red Sox’s No. 2-ranked prospect is doing relatively well in his first season at Triple-A, posting an .873 OPS, six home runs and 20 RBIs in 29 games. But after a 2020 in which the minor league season was canceled and a hectic 2021 that included the Olympics, the Sox want the 22-year-old Casas to continue to develop and go through the growing pains of a season before declaring it. ready for the big leagues.

“He had a really interesting, great year of development last year, but just the way he split with the Olympics, changing levels, he wasn’t necessarily in one place long enough for the league to make a lot of adjustments. to him and then that he has to adapt to change,” Casas said. “And one of the things about the game today, more than any other time, certainly more than I’ve ever been in it, is that by the time you get to the major leagues, there’s already a book on you. …

“Our job is to try to position everyone to be where their odds of success are as good as possible, and to have them here when they’re ready to be here. That’s certainly something we think he can pull off this year.”

odds and ends

Red Sox top prospect Marcelo Mayer is expected to return to games for Single-A Salem this week, according to a source. Mayer hasn’t played in a game since April 23 due to workload management and then suffered minor right wrist soreness that kept him out longer.

Mayer, the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft, is off to a strong start in his first pro season. He is slashing .333/.397/.491 with an .888 OPS in 13 games. …

The Red Sox are 10 1/2 games behind the Yankees for first place heading into Tuesday’s two-game series at Atlanta. … Garrett Whitlock will start Tuesday and Nathan Eovaldi Wednesday against the Braves. The likely starters for this weekend’s series in Texas have yet to be determined.

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