Alex Cora seemed to hit a boiling point after his Red Sox dropped a series to the Tigers this week. He didn’t mince words and had no silver linings to share as he preached the need to get better, or risk letting this season slip away.
“We have to play better if we want to pull this off,” Cora said sternly.
The first chance to respond came Friday night in Toronto. But it only got worse.
What began as a promising night turned to disaster in the blink of an eye, as the Blue Jays erupted for a nine-run fifth inning against Nathan Eovaldi and the Red Sox, leaving them exasperated and continuing to search for answers after a 12-4 loss at the Rogers Centre. It was their eighth loss in 10 games, and sixth in seven since last Friday’s inactive trade deadline.
To make matters worse, both the Rays and Yankees won on Friday night, which put the Red Sox 2 1/2 games back of the division lead, just three games ahead of the Yankees and four ahead of the surging Jays.
“How many more do you want to lose?” a frustrated Xander Bogaerts said. “You’re not gaining any ground by losing. It’s not a lack of the mindset or lack of hard work because everyone’s putting in the work. Everyone’s focused. Everyone’s dedicated. …
“When it’s going bad, it’s going really bad. (Saturday) we have two games and we have to try harder.”
It’s too late to add any help, and even with reinforcements on their way soon, they’re in desperate need of some. The Red Sox have been one of the most resilient teams in baseball this season, but over the last week, they haven’t responded. Not after a 13-1 loss to the Jays last Thursday, a sweep to the Rays, or now, after a series loss to the Tigers, they’ve continued to roll over.
“I know it’s not about a lack of effort, a lack of focus, a lack of work, it’s none of that,” Bogaerts said. “Maybe we should try harder. Because apparently what we’re doing right now is not enough. …
“It’s a really, really bad time to be playing bad right now.”
As bad as it’s been, Friday may have marked rock bottom during this brutal stretch.
With their rotation continuing to struggle, the Red Sox needed a strong effort from Eovaldi, who’s been their most reliable starter this season. It looked that way for a while, as the Sox carried a 2-0 lead into the fifth behind four shutout innings from the right-hander.
But then it turned into a nightmare in an instant in the fifth.
Eovaldi served up three consecutive doubles to the Blue Jays’ 7-8-9 hitters to suddenly tie the game. But it was only the beginning. The Jays, who have the best offense in baseball, showed exactly why by peppering the Red Sox all over the ballpark with nine hits, including five doubles and a home run, in the inning.
“It just happened so fast,” Cora said.
Eovaldi actually came close to escaping the mess when he had Bo Bichette in a two-out, 2-2 count in a tie game. But in the matter of three pitches, his night turned completely upside down. Bichette smacked a pitch off the right-field wall for a 3-2 lead, and Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel jumped on first pitches for a double and home run, respectively, to make it a 7-2 game.
Cora didn’t hesitate to come out of the dugout to take his ace out of the game.
“I felt like I was in control and the bottom part of the lineup got to me,” Eovaldi said. “They’re a great hitting team and I have to face the top of their lineup. I just felt like I couldn’t stop the bleeding. …
“Giving up seven runs there, it’s unacceptable. I can’t allow that to happen. It’s just extremely frustrating on my end. I feel like I let the team down.”
The nightmare wasn’t over. Hansel Robles, who the Red Sox did add for some pitching help, didn’t help. He allowed a single before hitting Randal Grichuk with a 96 mph fastball, which incited an angry reaction from the Jays dugout. Tempers flared between them and Robles, who almost invited the benches to clear before Cora ran out and stepped in to try to calm things down.
Frustration continued as Robles allowed an infield single before serving up a two-run double to George Springer. The Jays weren’t mad anymore. Instead, they were laughing at what was unfolding.
There was no fight in the Red Sox, even after a Hunter Renfroe two-run homer in the sixth. Their offensive woes continued as they came up empty twice with the bases loaded.
“It’s disappointing, of course,” Cora said. “But I do believe, today I feel a little bit better than yesterday, although the result is the same. I think we put some competitive at-bats. Obviously we didn’t get the big hit to put them away, but like I said, we’ve got to do a lot of things better.
“(Saturday) we’ve got a doubleheader against a good team, they’re playing well so we’ve got to find a way.”