BOSTON — Started at the top, now we’re at the bottom?
The Red Sox are facing a different tune this season after being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in Thursday’s doubleheader at Fenway Park. The defending World Series champions now find themselves tied with the Rays for last place in the American League East.
Granted, it’s way too early to dive deep into standings, especially with only three games separating the five AL East teams. But Thursday’s pair of losses undoubtedly stings a bit for the Red Sox, particularly because they once again squandered several golden opportunities.
“Seemingly, it was the story of the day,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said while outlining Boston’s missed chances Thursday.
The Red Sox went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base while suffering a 2-1 defeat in a Game 1 that was marred in controversy because of a call the umpires upheld in the seventh inning. Dustin Pedroia was ruled out at home while trying to score on David Ortiz’s one-out double, and the Red Sox’s challenge was unsuccessful because there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the initial call — something that didn’t sit well with the Sox.
The seventh-inning controversy obviously stood out given the play’s magnitude, but the Red Sox had numerous chances throughout Game 1. Boston left two men on base in both the fifth inning and sixth innings, and then capped the crushing defeat by stranding Pedroia — who represented the potential tying run — at second base in the bottom of the ninth.
Game 2 didn’t go much better for the Red Sox, who actually carried a 5-2 lead into the sixth inning after jumping all over Chris Archer and company for five runs in the fifth. The Red Sox infield botched a popup in the sixth inning, which paved the way for Sean Rodriguez’s momentum-recapturing, two-run homer. Junichi Tazawa gave up a game-tying double to Rodriguez in the eighth inning, and Koji Uehara surrendered a go-ahead home run to Yunel Escobar in the ninth inning, leading to a 6-5 loss.
The bullpen breakdown was shocking, to say the least, but the Red Sox had several chances to seize control of Game 2. Boston left two men on base in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings before Grant Balfour wrapped up Tampa Bay’s doubleheader sweep by nailing down his second save of the day. The Red Sox failed to push across the tying run in the ninth despite Shane Victorino leading off with a double and moving to within 90 feet of home plate with one out.
“When we’ve had opportunities allude us, I think there might be human nature tendency to try to do a little bit more as that opportunity keeps presenting itself,” Farrell said. “But we still have to maintain the approach to create those opportunities — which we are, we’re doing a very good job in that — but it’s cashing in where we’ve come up short.”
Clearly, the Red Sox can look at their inability to produce in key spots in two ways — either as a major concern or as an issue that will work itself out in time. But regardless of whether one views the glass as half empty or half full, the overall win-loss record currently has Boston in a place it didn’t care to visit in 2013.