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It is a pretty big problem that the Red Sox can't hit and can't field

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have some real big problems. The biggest being that the team can't really hit, and the team cannot really field.

Both of those reared their ugly head in Monday's 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Guardians on Patriots' Day. The Red Sox spoiled a beautiful Marathon Monday by getting shut out at the plate and some shoddy defense leading to another unearned run. At least this time it was only one unearned run surrendered by the Red Sox. 

But both are frustrating problems, and ones that will likely sink the team in the end.

We'll start with the offense. Monday was the third time this season that the Red Sox have been shut out over their first 17 games. They've been shut out twice on this current 2-5 homestand, and have been outscored 42-22 by the opposition.

The Sox mustered just three hits on Monday, one of which was an infield single by Rafael Devers in the ninth inning of a 6-0 game. Boston was set down in order four times in the game, with Guardians pitchers recording eight strikeouts on the afternoon.

Monday marks the fourth time this season that the Red Sox have been held to three or fewer hits. Jarren Duran, Devers, and Tyler O'Neill were the only Boston batters to get a hit. O'Neill also worked a walk in the bottom of the sixth, but was stranded when Triston Casas flied out to end the inning.

And to make matters worse, O'Neill had to leave the game after colliding with Devers at the end of the top of the seventh and is currently in concussion protocol. He is tied for the Major League lead with seven homers, and losing him for a prolonged period of time would be devastating, since the Red Sox can only win when they leave the yard.

The Sox fell to 3-5 on Monday in games where they don't hit a homer. They are 6-3 when sending one into the stands.

It boils down to this on offense: Outside of O'Neill (hitting .313 with seven homers), Duran (.300 with a .359 OBP), and the catcher tandem of Reese McGuire (10-for-37) and Connor Wong (9-for-27), no one on the Sox is hitting. Casas has four dingers and two doubles, but he's only hitting .242.

But Casas' average is well above the team's collectively, which ranks 24th in MLB at .226. The Sox are only slightly better in OBP (.303, ranking 23rd) and slugging (.372, ranking 21st), but they strike out a ton. The team's 171 strikeouts and 26.7 percent strikeout rate are both fourth-worst in baseball.

Boston's issues at the plate are just half the problem though, as the team also can't field to save their lives. With the Guardians leading 2-0 in the eighth on Monday, Jose Ramirez hit a sharp liner that hit off Casas' glove and into right field. Wilyer Abreu got to the ball and fired it to second base to try to get Ramirez, but David Hamilton couldn't handle the one-hop throw. The ball got away from the shortstop, and Cleveland tacked on another run to make it 4-0.

Abreu got charged with the error, but it was a play that Hamilton should have made. And it's those plays that the Red Sox haven't made this season that have proven to be costly, as they're now up to 17 errors in 17 games. Those have led to 19 unearned runs. Both lead the majors. 

A team that struggles to score runs can't be giving teams extra outs or free runs and expect to win games. And the Red Sox have done plenty of that, with a handful of others miscues that could have been errors but weren't ruled as such.

"It sucks," Boston manager Alex Cora said of Monday's error, which spoiled an otherwise clean day in the field. "You have to make plays, it's frustrating for everybody. But at the same time, you cannot get down on them trying to make plays. Tip a ball, it goes 25 feet. [Ramirez is] one of the best players in the game, hustles, plays the game the right way, and we don't make the play. We just got to get better."

The loss of Trevor Story will test Boston's infield depth and defense, and Cora hinted that we could see more of Ceddanne Rafaela at short. The rookie sensation started at shortstop on Monday, but moved to the outfield after O'Neill left following a collision with Rafael Devers. While he's dynamic in the outfield, Cora may be forced to play Rafaela at short in place of Hamilton, who already has a pair of errors in his limited playing time with the Red Sox. 

The offensive and defensive struggles of the Red Sox are frustrating to watch, and that frustration only grows when you see that the team's starting pitching remains strong. Boston starters own the best ERA in the baseball at 1.92. The Red Sox wouldn't be 9-8 on the season if it weren't for the strong arms of the rotation.

But all of that is going to waste because the team can't hit and can't field. 

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