When next the faithful convene at Fenway Park, on Friday, there will be a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the first game played there. Red Sox long retired will take the field to be cheered one more time.
The past is all the Sox can celebrate these days. The present is too painful to think about.
The familiar pattern of losing continued Wednesday night as Mike Napoli drove in four runs to lift the Texas Rangers to a 6-3 victory before a crowd of 37,967.
The Red Sox have lost three straight and are 4-8 going into a weekend series against the Yankees. The Sox opened the homestand with three victories against the Tampa Bay Rays, scoring 31 runs. They have scored six runs in the three games since.
“It’s definitely not how you want to play, it doesn’t equal good,’’ said Josh Beckett, who held the Rangers to three runs over seven innings but took the loss, dropping him to 1-2. “Especially when you come off a 1-5 road trip.’’
The best team in baseball for five months last season, the Sox have lost 28 of their last 39 games. Two weeks into the new season, only some of the faces have changed; the results are the same.
It is taking a toll on manager Bobby Valentine, who is now booed when he makes pitching changes. The feisty enthusiasm that marks his personality was missing after the game as Valentine recounted the details of the latest loss.
“We’ll get some little things going our way and we’ll get a nice streak going,’’ Valentine said, his words more hopeful than his expression.
Derek Holland (2-0) held the Sox to two runs over seven innings. They came in the second when David Ortiz doubled and Kevin Youkilis homered to left-center, a deep shot.
Youkilis was dropped to sixth in the order, the lowest he has been since 2008.
“Yeah, maybe just a little,’’ Valentine said before the game when asked if he was trying to ease the pressure on Youkilis. “Maybe just a little something different for him, you know?’’
Youkilis came into the game 6 of 34 with 12 strikeouts. The homer was his first in a stretch of 76 at-bats dating to Aug. 14.
“It’s nice to hit a home run, but when you don’t win a ballgame it doesn’t really matter,’’ Youkilis said.
The Sox were otherwise 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
A night after the Rangers scored 18 runs against Jon Lester and five relievers, Beckett pitched well enough to win but received little support.
Josh Hamilton had an RBI single in the third inning. In the fourth, David Murphy led off with a single and scored on a home run by Napoli that landed deep in the seats atop the wall in left field.
After missing twice with his cutter, Beckett went to a fastball and Napoli was waiting for it. Napoli is hitting .358 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in 20 games against the Red Sox since the start of the 2010 season.
“I made one big mistake, the pitch to Napoli,’’ Beckett said. “Ultimately it was bad for me and bad for the team.’’
Beckett retired 12 in a row after the home run. He was finished after 110 pitches. Beckett scattered seven hits, walked one, and struck out seven.
Franklin Morales let a close game get away in the eighth.
The lefthander loaded the bases with one out. Pinch hitter Craig Gentry fouled off three two-strike pitches before getting hit in the foot by a fastball to force in a run.
Napoli was next and he crunched a two-run double off the wall as Texas took a 6-2 lead.
Valentine regretted leaving Morales in the game as long as he did. Showing faith in his pitchers has backfired several times already this season.
“I wanted to keep confidence that I wasn’t going to pull the plug too soon,’’ Valentine said. “He’s had four good outings for us. I was hoping to salvage that one. It didn’t work.’’
The crowd booed when Valentine came out to the mound to replace Morales with Matt Albers.
“I was booing myself. It didn’t work out,’’ Valentine said.
The four-run lead was ample against a low-wattage Red Sox offense that managed only five hits - two after the third inning.
The Sox stirred a bit in the ninth. Pinch hitter Ryan Sweeney had an RBI single but with runners on first and third, Jarrod Saltalamacchia lined into a double play to end the game.
Sweeney, who was on first base, ran a few steps when Saltalamacchia hit the ball hard. But the ball smacked into the glove of first baseman Brandon Snyder.
The Sox are off Thursday before the Yankees arrive.
“I don’t mind it,’’ Valentine said.