Cut up the Players Weekend uniforms, throw them in a dark place and light a match.
The alternate jerseys are either cursed or incredibly uncomfortable, because the Red Sox played some of their worst baseball of the season in their new gear this weekend.
The gore finally came to an end on Sunday afternoon, when the Red Sox left 13 runners on base, went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and wasted another strong effort from Doug Fister in a 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Manager John Farrell found the positives in this one, noting that the Red Sox played a “solid game, yet the two-out base hit was elusive.”
There was little positive in this series.
The O’s marched into Boston with neon-orange caps and a sub-.500 record, but found a way to keep the Red Sox offense relatively quiet while torching their pitching staff and embarrassing their fielders to the tune of 25 runs in three games.
After getting swept by the Birds, the Red Sox matched their season-high four-game losing streak, fell to 73-57 on the year and, with a big win by the New York Yankees over the Seattle Mariners in the Bronx, their lead in the American League East shrunk to just 2-1/2 games, the smallest gap since Aug. 3.
“I don’t think we’re having trouble,” said Mookie Betts, who was 1-for-4 and lowered his average to .265. “A couple of days ago we weren’t having this conversation. Just a couple of rough days.”
As untimely as it may be with the Red Sox scheduled to fly to Toronto tonight for three, and then take on the Yanks in New York for four games starting on Thursday, it’s particularly alarming giving the way it happened.
An offense that tends to be either boiling-hot or popsicle-cold made the switch back to sub-zero temperatures. The Sox went 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position during the series. Even their best hitters appeared desperate at the plate.
Look no further than the sixth inning, when the Red Sox were trailing 2-0 before Rafael Devers drove in the Sox’ only run with an RBI double. Sandy Leon then drew a walk, Eduardo Nunez struck out swinging and Andrew Benintendi was given a free pass, loading the bases with two outs for Betts.
Betts worked the count full with two outs, then stared at a middle-down fastball from Miguel Castro, leaving his bat on his shoulders for the final out of the inning.
Rarely does Betts, who earlier this year finished a streak of 129 consecutive regular-season plate appearances without striking out, end an at-bat with a strikeout looking, particularly when the pitch is a fastball.
“It was a strike,” Betts said. “I just thought it was down but his ball kind of stays on the same plane. It was definitely a strike.”
He wasn’t the only one who couldn’t convert.
In the first inning, Hanley Ramirez had a golden opportunity against O’s starter Wade Miley, who entered the game with a 5.11 ERA, with Benintendi on third and Betts on second. But Ramirez struck out on three pitches. Miley gave up one run and seven hits over five innings to improve to 8-10.
As for Ramirez, he’s hitting just .191 with runners in scoring position this season. Stuck in an extended slump, he snapped an 0-for-13 streak, in which he struck out eight times, with a single later in the game and finished 1-for-3 with a pair of walks.
“They made some pitches,” Farrell said. “They elevated in close to him where they feel like there might be a hole to get to. But I don’t know that we can pinpoint or put all of this on Hanley.”
The most egregious wasted opportunity might have been in the seventh inning, when the Red Sox put two on to start the inning. Xander Bogaerts hit a weak grounder to third and Ramirez smartly stopped in his tracks between second and third, forcing Manny Machado to throw to second for only one out.
With runners on the corners, Rajai Davis swung at the first pitch and grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The offensive struggles wasted another strong performance from Fister, who went seven innings, allowing just two runs. He struck out seven and walked two and has a 3.41 ERA in five starts since rejoining the rotation following David Price’s injury.
Now the Red Sox get three games in Toronto in hopes of gaining some momentum before heading to the Bronx.
“It’s going to be huge,” Betts said.
Farrell didn’t seem concerned.
“This is where our team has performed at its best, when we’re faced with some adversity,” he said. “We’ve banded together, we’ve rallied around one another. We certainly know that these seven games are going to be big — and heck, you could say that about our 32 games that are remaining. We have a good challenge ahead of us. Have loved the way we’ve responded to challenges throughout this year.”