When the series against the Blue Jays began, it felt as though the Red Sox had at least a chance to start fresh and put their inconsistency in the past.
Sure, the odds were stacked against them, with injuries mounting, a roster overflowing with rookies, and a daunting schedule on the horizon, but there was a tangible renewed sense of hope following the All-Star break. Perhaps they could resemble the explosive and captivating team they were in June, rather than the sluggish and unpredictable one they’ve been the rest of the year.
Instead, they squandered a prime opportunity, played one of their worst series of the season, and moved to .500 (48-48) for the first time since June 5. Following a predictable 8-4 loss to Toronto on Sunday, they’ ve now dropped nine of 10 and are barely staying afloat in fourth place above the Orioles. An already inauspicious situation is now infinitely more bleak, and there’s no indication that anything will change anytime soon.
The Blue Jays obliterated the Red Sox, 28-5, on Friday, cruised to a 4-1 win on Saturday, and took care of business Sunday – that’s a 40-10 run differential, for those keeping score. It felt like two teams trending in opposite directions, and the Red Sox were noticeably outmatched both on paper and in reality.
This roster, as it currently stands, isn’t one that’s built to make a postseason run, and that was abundantly clear as they played yet another sloppy and uninspiring game.
“The brand of baseball we’re playing is awful,” manager Alex Cora said. “We’re not catching the ball, we’re not putting good at-bats, we’re not throwing strikes. It’s bad. It’s really bad right now. But we’re talented, and we can turn it around quick.”
Two innings ultimately cost them.
The Red Sox pitched seven scoreless innings Sunday, but a five-run first and three-run fifth ultimately proved to be the difference.
In the first, rookie right-hander Brayan Bello was on the wrong end of a couple tough bounces right away. The Jays, as dynamic teams do, took advantage thanks to timely hits from Cavan Biggio and Raimel Tapia.
Bello recovered and retired the side unscathed in the second, third, and fourth, then Hirokazu Sawamura allowed three runs in a disastrous fifth inning that summarized the series.
Jeter Downs fielded a grounder, correctly threw home, and hit Matt Chapman directly in the back. The ball then found Downs again, and he bobbled it and couldn’t throw it to second in time. Sawamura then tried to cover first and had no idea where the base was.
“It seems like right now the game speeds up at one point in the game, and it looks horrible,” Cora said.
Bello had a tough start but recovered well.
By no means was Bello in command, but his line of four innings, nine hits, and five earned runs doesn’t tell the full story. He had some bad luck in the first, and it can be tough for a young pitcher to regroup after untimely misfortune.
“I just wanted to try to perform to keep the team in the game so we could win,” Bello said through a translator. “Unfortunately, that inning happened.”
Though he struggled early, he made it through the inning and settled into a rhythm from there. When the Jays got runners on base, Bello remained calm and escaped each time.
The highly regarded prospect Bello said the ball simply wasn’t in his favor today. His first Major League season isn’t going as he hoped, and he’s currently 0-2 with a 10.50 ERA in three starts. He’s pitched exactly four innings each outing and has given up either four or five runs every time. In each instance, one or two rocky innings have cost him.
“That’s part of the learning process,” Cora said. “Sometimes the tough inning is the sixth, sometimes the tough at-bat is the third batter into the game … Overall, after that, he was OK. A lot of traffic, a lot of weak contact.”
The lineup had its moments but was streaky again.
While pitching is the bigger concern right now, the Red Sox lineup is also far from menacing. Yes, part of that is injury-related, but they have several players in unfamiliar and increased roles as a result and look collectively confused at times.
Christian Vázquez (batting second), Bobby Dalbec, and Jeter Downs were all 0-for-4. Once again, like they did Saturday, the Red Sox had their chances. Once again, they left runners on base in key moments.
Jackie Bradley Jr. homered for the second time in the series, Jarren Duran tripled and doubled, and Xander Bogaerts, Yolmer Sánchez, and Alex Verdugo all drove in runs, yet it wasn’t nearly enough.
“At the end of the day, this is what we have and who we are,” Cora said.
Cora downplayed the rumors once again.
The Aug. 2 trade deadline is quickly approaching, and it’s appearing more and more likely that the Red Sox will — or at least should — be sellers. Don’t tell that to Cora, though.
“I buy at the grocery store and don’t sell too many things at home,” Cora said wryly. “We’ve just got to play better.”
Sunday was another day at the ballpark gone wrong. As David Ortiz officially cemented his place in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, the Red Sox turned into one more dud at Fenway.
Bogaerts summed it up succinctly Saturday night.
“The opposing team that’s looking at the schedule and sees that the Red Sox are next, there’s no sympathy. They don’t feel sorry,” he said. “They feel like it’s a perfect situation for them.”
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