There it sat, a massive void on the schedule that called out to the weary Red Sox like an oasis in the desert. As great as the team had been playing during a brutal portion of the schedule, it limped over the latter portion and knew that Thursday, a rare day off, was necessary.
After suffering a fourth straight loss Wednesday afternoon in Fenway Park, that need was only amplified.
"I don't think it's strange [we are tired], seen 20 games in a row," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "Think Detroit kind of killed us, for real, as far as that's concerned. But we have an off-day tomorrow and we're going to come back strong."
The stretch of 20 games in 20 days that Saltalamacchia refers to did not actually play out that way. There were two rainouts along the way, but both of those still require travel to the park and all the preparation that goes into a pregame routine. It is anything but a day off, and the second one was made up in a day-night doubleheader on Sunday that served to knock a weary, albeit winning, team for a loop.
Boston, which had won 13 of 15 before hitting the wall, dropped the nightcap of the twin bill and arrived home in the wee hours prior to beginning its series with Chicago. Taking advantage of their opponents' fatigue, the White Sox outscored the Red Sox 24-14 in a three-game sweep.
"We played that day-night in Detroit and got home at five [a.m.], so guys have kind of been dragging," Dustin Pedroia said. "We're trying to pick each other up. Not to use that as an excuse, they played well, the White Sox played good. We get a day off tomorrow and get some rest and come out and play some good ball."
Manager Terry Francona often talks about how finding success in baseball is often just about catching teams at the right time. That was the case for Chicago, which may have found its stride by extending its own Fenway Park winning streak to seven games, matching the longest in franchise history.
The finale saw Boston blow an early 3-0 lead and lose shutdown lefty Rich Hill to an apparent elbow injury. It all makes for a much-needed 24 hours away from the ballpark.
"Obviously, we want to win, but I think this kind of happens," said reliever Matt Albers, who took the loss Wednesday after failing to retire a batter in the seventh. "Collectively, we didn't play great in this series, but luckily we have an off-day tomorrow, come back Friday and regroup. It's kind of one of those things. We were playing great before that and I think Friday we'll come in refreshed and be ready to go."
The Red Sox open a three-game series with Oakland starting Friday at Fenway Park. If Thursday's day off doesn't do the trick, there's another one after the Athletics leave town.