Lately, the Nation goes to bed each night another game worse in the division. Each morning, we rise to a lineup that can’t hit good pitchers or bad; starters who can’t bring it to another level to carry the anemic bats; opponents who run wild on the bases; and the expectation of dropping another game in the standings.

Twice before, the Sox have squantered large advantages over the Yankees in record time (12 days to lose 5.5 games in May, 15 days to lose 5 games in July, thanks to Baseball Race). Now, they’ve done the same in just five days, leaving one question: If the Sox continue to play this way, is it possible they could melt down all the way to China?

Boston Sports Blog acknowledges things could be worse, even as the threat of sinking deeper looms. Toeing The Rubber says losing is real and it’s here, but we gotta support these guys anyway. So many demons make Boston Dirt Dogs want to scream. Mazz says the Sox’s inability to hit right-handed pitching is a reason to worry, but their ability to pummel lefties is a cause for jubilation. The unasked question is, aren’t there more righties than lefties in MLB?

A Red Sox Fan From Pinstripe Territory tells the media to go become Washington Nationals fans if they can’t handle a one-game [make that two] deficit in July. New England Sports 24/7 says Boston will need quite the militia to fend off the Yankees attack. YFSF takes solace in the pitching, which has historically been the culprit during previous swoons. Alas, all is not lost. Justin Masterson says life can be fun if you allow it to be.

Last night, I tried that, sitting in front of NESN determined to disprove the charge that this is an unwatchable team. The opening witness was Jacoby Ellsbury, who struck out on four poitches, two of them called. Lead-off is a black hole in the 2009 Red Sox, where Hacks With Haggs has some stats that have Theo falling short of his goal to be average everywhere. Ironically, he just traded his best lead-off hitter. State of the Sox likes Ellsbury leading off since he’s the only one who wants the job, but Don Orsillo says he doesn’t get on base enough.

Gary Tanguay thinks John Smoltz in the bullpen will make these a better Sox. The House That Dewey Built takes a quantitative look at Smoltz’s plunging velocity. Then there’s Jason Varitek’s velocity, as Projo Sports Blog has opponents running unabated around the bases. One If By Land analyzes the problem of J.D. Drew, who is grounding into overshifts when he’s not outright swinging through the ball.

Tom Caron draws a parallel between Theo’s July trades and his team’s success in October. Fighting Words thinks a sleight of hand has helped Theo shop Clay Buchholz in the weeks leading up to the MLB trade deadline. Extra Bases has newly-acquired Adam LaRoche historically morphing from minor-leaguer to All-Star during the season’s second half. Small White Ball is thankful we’ve moved onto the positive side of LaRoche’s season-long ledger. FanGraphs says the Sox exploited their financial resources to get an overpaid backup but, hey, he won’t be a disaster. Year Of The Sox expected this as a hedge against the wince-and-hobble fest that is Mike Lowell in the field, but The Hardball Times calls him a below-average fielder. SportsCenter 5 Overtime suspects LaRoche’s Pittsburgh connection to Jason Bay may be at play in this acquisition.

Sox Addict has Theo ridding himself of one of his biggest mistakes with Julio Lugo’s trade to St. Louis. Fire Brand of the American League likes the much-needed pop Chris Duncan may provide against righties. Sweet Spot can’t figure out what Duncan offers that Kotsay doesn’t.

Thanks For Playing has Jim Rice out of the spotlight at his own HoF induction this weekend. There’ll be another ceremony for Rice later, when No. 14 is hung from the rightfield facade at Fenway. Ask 14 comments on the retirement of his number. Empyreal Environs exploits Rice’s honors and Henry Gates’ recent arrest as his platform for commenting on Boston bigotry, which he contends hasn’t improved enough since No. 14’s rookie season.

Patriots

Musket Fire allays our fears of a reportedly tough schedule facing the Patriots in 2009. NE Patriots Draft has the Pats going 14-2 this year . . . if they keep out the Bernard Pollards of the world. Speaking of which, Patriots Notebook looks at this year’s O line, which has a magnified significance. Shutdown Corner hopes honorary captain Elton John can hold Tom Brady closer.

Blaug runs down the progress made in signing this year’s rookie class. Not so fast, says It Is What It Is, as negotiations with long snapper Jake Ingram have snagged.

His paychecks might be in New England, but Pats Chowder has Jarvis Green’s heart in New Orleans with the Saints. However, Reiss’s Pieces has Green backtracking and sending some lovin’ New England’s way. Sports of Boston looks forward to messing with PETA if Michael Vick ever comes to Foxborough. Don’t hold your breath, Jon, despite what you hear.

And finally, Pats Pulpit catches up with the newest Pats beat writer, the Herald’s Ian Rapoport.

I’ll be joining Tim Wakefield on the 15-day DL after today, as vacation and day job commitments call. We’ll see you in three weeks or, in Red Sox math, another 21 games behind.

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