Mike Napoli has struggled recently despite a red-hot start in 2013. (Getty Images) Mike Napoli has struggled recently despite a red-hot start in 2013. (Getty Images)

It’s no secret that the Red Sox are in a rut, losers of nine of their last 11 games heading into last night. One of the major issues for the team during this stretch has been its inability to produce with runners in scoring position, as the team is four for its last 40 (.100).

While this is a major issue, and the one many have pointed to as being the reason for the disappointing stretch, another reason is the lack of production the team is getting from their top hitters in David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.

"I think we've got a number of guys dealing with frustration right now. There's no question about it," manager John Farrell said after Sunday’s loss to Toronto. "The key for us is maintaining our level of preparation and our work routine. Those are the two things that we can control. I know with the attitude of this group, we're going to continue to work, but we're getting tested right now. There's no question about it."

 

In their last 11 games, Ortiz and Napoli are both 8-for-43 (.186), combining for just five doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs. Although those numbers, aside from the average, may not seem horrendous, these are the No. 4 and No. 5 hitters in the lineup and the offensive leaders of the team.
Ortiz and Napoli are the key to Boston’s offense as shown in a 10-game stretch from April 22 - May 2, in which the team went 8-2. The tandem went a combined 26-for-49 (.531) with 13 doubles, six home runs and 24 RBIs.

Ortiz’s drop in production may be connected to soreness in his left oblique, which he confirmed following Tuesday night’s game. He said it isn’t at a point where it can get worse as of yet, but he did say it has bothered him on a few swings. Regardless, he is still able to play and as the cleanup hitter he needs to be better than hitting .186 over an 11-game span if the Red Sox hope to stay at or near the top of the AL East standings.

No one is expecting the duo to hit a combined .531 all season, but a difference of 345 percentage points is very alarming in two separate 10-game spans over a three week period. While capitalizing on scoring opportunities is important, Ortiz and Napoli are what make the offense click and when talking about getting the offense back on track, it all starts with these two.

Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84

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