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Peter Abraham | On baseball

It’s time for scuffling Red Sox to get it going

After he struck out swining in the third inning in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Andrew Benintendi put the offense’s mounting frustration on display when he slammed his bat to the ground. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

As usual, Chris Sale was relentlessly honest after the Red Sox lost again on Sunday, 5-2 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The lefthander said he sees his teammates doing the same pre-game preparations they did last season. The hitters are in the cage, the pitchers in the bullpen, and the coaches are delivering the same information.

It’s largely the same team, too. The bullpen isn’t as deep, but that has only occasionally been a problem, and it’s one that can easily be fixed when the time comes.

“We’re doing our thing; we’re doing what we’ve got to do to succeed,” Sale said. “It’s just, the success isn’t there.”


Sale’s solution is to keep doing what once worked, to keep connecting all the dots until a brighter picture comes into focus.

“Just know that on the other side of all this, there’s going to be some green grass,” he said. “It’s not easy to swallow now. But, hey, we’ll be there.”

But when will that be? The Red Sox are 11-17 and have won one of the nine series they have played. They swept the Rays in Florida last weekend, returned to Fenway Park, and are 2-4 since with three games coming up against Oakland.

At some point soon this won’t be a good team playing poorly. This will just be a bad team. Good teams don’t talk about why they should be winning games; they win them.

“It’s a result-oriented game,” Sale said. “No one cares about the hard work; no one cares about the effort. You’ve got to start winning games. You’ve got to find a way.”

Sale fell to — this is no typo — 0-5 after allowing four runs on four hits over seven innings. Two of the runs were unearned when error-prone third baseman Rafael Devers fumbled a double-play ball in the second inning.


Had that happened last year, Sale would have found a way out of the jam. This time he left a slider over the plate and Yandy Diaz hammered it to center.

Had that happened last year, Jackie Bradley Jr. would have caught the ball. This time he got back to the right spot, jumped, and missed it.

That put the Sox down 4-0. Had this been last year, they would have found a way to come back. This time, they stranded runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings.

There is 83 percent of the season left to play and the Sox are a good week away from being just behind the Yankees and Rays. But that good week has yet to come.

Manager Alex Cora has been determinedly positive, something he believes is a necessity given the expectations on the Sox. But how often can he say he feels that change is coming when it never does?

At least one more time, apparently.

“I honestly feel like we’re not that far,” Cora said. “You see flashes. It’s just a matter of getting that big hit, that one that puts a crooked number up there.”

There were no flashes in two games against the Rays, only clouds and a metaphoric cold wind at Fenway Park. The Sox scored three runs on 12 hits over 18 innings and were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

Without J.D. Martinez, who has missed two games with back spasms, the Sox looked easy to pitch to.


“Sometimes you don’t even understand, you know? We’re trying to find answers,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts said. “It’s so weird. It just hasn’t all clicked yet.”

The Sox changed the mix when they called up 23-year-old power hitter Michael Chavis on April 19. He hit a 441-foot homer to center in the seventh inning that closed the gap to two runs.

But then he threw a ball away in the ninth inning trying too hard to turn a double play he had no chance of making. That allowed a run to score.

If the Red Sox were a rebuilding team or coming off a losing season, that would all be fine. But they’re a team with an enormous payroll built to win again.

Cora rightfully praised the Rays, who have an excellent pitching staff, as being a tough team to beat. But the Yankees, who have an All-Star team of players on the injured list, have found a way to hang in there.

At some point, the Sox will have to decide how long they can roll with the same cast. If Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, or Dustin Pedroia comes off the injured lost and shows he can play second, Chavis may make more sense at first base or third base.

Or maybe he should DH with Martinez in the outfield if Bradley doesn’t emerge from his annual slump.

Actions will have to replace words before it’s too late.


“That’s the bottom line, you’ve got to play better,” Cora said. “We know it as a group. We’ve done it for two days; we don’t do it for one day. We haven’t been consistent at it. You’re looking for consistency, that’s what we need. We need to start doing that sooner rather than later.”

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.