Bay unworried about tough stretch

Bay unworried about tough stretch

BALTIMORE -- Jason Bay is Boston's cleanup hitter, and he loved how the Red Sox bounced back for a 6-5 victory over the Orioles in 11 innings on Wednesday at Camden Yards. The left fielder just wished he could have done more to help.

Bay's recent slide continued as he struck out in all five of his at-bats, but he never came up with runners in scoring position.

This continued the struggles Bay has had in recent games. He struck out nine times in the Baltimore series, going 0-for-15 during the entire three-game set. Bay also fanned for the final out in the Orioles' 11-10 victory on Tuesday -- and has struck out in seven of his past eight at-bats.

It was only the sixth time in Red Sox history that a batter struck out five times in a contest. George Scott did it twice, and Astros manager Cecil Cooper holds the team record with six whiffs in one game on June 14, 1974. The last time it happened was Phil Plantier on Oct. 1, 1991.

But Boston manager Terry Francona isn't worried.

"He's just scuffling," Francona said. "He's in between [in his timing]. You can see, he's a little ahead of the breaking ball. It's typical just in-between. He actually missed a breaking ball on his last at-bat, and you could see him [think], 'I should have hit it.' He's just in-between."

Bay agreed, saying that five-strikeout games and long slumps can get into a batter's head a little, especially when the problems just keep coming.

"When you're going well, you go up there, you're not thinking much [and] you go up there, and boom, and stuff happens," Bay said. "When you struggle a little bit, you tend to maybe try to do too much, get out of your game a little bit -- whatever it is -- and everything gets magnified."

Bay's average has slipped down to .262, and the Red Sox need for him to find his way because of how important he's become. The left fielder has become a strong replacement for Manny Ramirez and moved into the No. 4 slot this year, giving Boston real power to help make up for David Ortiz's early troubles.

Red Sox who struck out
at least five times in a game
George Scott April 15, 1966Indians
Ray Jarvis April 20, 1969Indians
Cecil Cooper* June 14, 1974Angels
George Scott June 27, 1978Yankees
Phil Plantier Oct. 1, 1991Tigers
Jason Bay July 1, 2009Orioles
Cooper holds the team record with six strikeouts on that date.

Bay leads the Red Sox with 19 homers and topped the American League coming into the game with 69 RBIs -- he's also third in the Majors.

But the five-strikeout game extends his recent slump to 6-for-42 in his past nine games. Bay said there's no simple formula; he's just got to work to make himself better.

"It's just one of those things where you [keep going]," Bay said. "It happens. Fortunately, we won the game, but it doesn't make you feel any better. You go out there and you kind of feel lost at times. You're trying to find that magical thing that kind of helps you. You keep [working] until you find that rhythm, and right now, I just don't have that rhythm."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.