There were no bold proclamations of better days to come by the Red Sox on Friday night or fanciful predictions of a winning streak that will propel them up the standings.
Instead there was a sense of resignation in the clubhouse after a 6-5, 10-inning loss against the Minnesota Twins.
The season is two-thirds complete and the Red Sox have lost one more game than they have won. They are 10 games out first place and remarkably adept at finding ways to lose games at Fenway Park.
A day after they were held to two hits, the Sox had 14. But they blew a four-run lead, failing to score over the final seven innings despite putting nine runners on base by hit, walk or error.
The Red Sox have lost three straight after winning four in a row. The momentum gained by two dramatic victories against the Yankees in New York, then a series victory against the Tigers has been lost.
“That seems to be the story of the season,” Adrian Gonzalez said.
The Twins scored the winning run on what amounted to a defensive misplay. With Vicente Padilla on the mound in the 10th inning, Darin Mastroianni hit a fly ball to the gap in right field.
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and right fielder Cody Ross converged, but the ball fell between them for a double.
“Yeah,” manager Bobby Valentine said when asked if the ball could have been caught. “I thought it hung up there long enough. When it was off the bat, I thought it was going to be caught.”
Ross, Valentine said, was playing a few steps to the line.
“I don’t know if Ells came over enough with him,” the manager said.
Ross took responsibility.
“I feel like I should have caught it,” he said. “Any ball that’s hit my way, I feel like I should catch. It’s tough to defend the whole field; it’s a big field out there. I caught a couple of balls down the line that could have easily been triples. That one drops in. Just so happens it’s in a big part of the game.”
Ellsbury did not make himself available for comment.
The Twins tried a bunt that was popped up by Brian Dozier. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks dived to catch the ball in foul territory. But his effort was wasted when Jamey Carroll singled to center to drive in the go-ahead run.
Jared Burton retired the Sox in order in the bottom of the inning for his fourth save. Five relievers held the Sox scoreless for five innings. In all, the Sox were 3 of 14 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base.
The Sox are 2-6 in extra innings, 0-4 at Fenway. In all, they are 27-31 at home.
“Talent can only go so far. You have to figure out ways to win,” Ross said. “There’s a difference between being a really talented group and a winning group. On paper it looks like that, but right now it feels like we’re reading water. It’s not a good feeling. We have to snap out of it.”
The opportunities were plentiful. Rookie Ryan Lavarnway grounded into a double play with two on and no outs in the fifth and popped up with two on and two outs in the seventh.
With the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, Ellsbury was struck out by lefty Tyler Robertson. Dustin Pedroia then popped to right field facing Jeff Gray.
Lavarnway doubled with two outs in the ninth but Middlebrooks grounded out after fouling off four two-strike pitches.
“We should have won tonight, no doubt about it,” Gonzalez said. “Today’s frustrating because of where we are. We’re getting close to the end of the year. We have two months to go, these are the kind of games we can’t afford to lose.”
The Red Sox built a 5-1 lead on Minnesota starter Brian Duensing after three innings.
Carl Crawford (3 for 5) had a two-out double to right field in the second. He scored on a single to center by Kelly Shoppach. The Sox then scored four runs in the third inning thanks to an embarrassing error.
Consecutive singles by Pedroia, Ross and Gonzalez accounted for the first run. With two outs, Crawford popped up in foul territory in front of the Red Sox dugout.
Justin Morneau settled under the ball and dropped it after stumbling back a step. Crawford, given a second chance, drilled the next pitch into the Red Sox bullpen for a three-run homer. It was his third of the season.
But Felix Doubront could not hold the four-run edge.
The lefty held the Twins to one run over the first four innings despite giving up five hits and two walks. The tightrope snapped in the fifth inning.
With one out and a runner on, Ben Revere singled and Joe Mauer walked to load the bases.
Doubront, whose body language expressed a clear displeasure with the strike zone of umpire Mark Wegner, walked Josh Willingham to force in a run.
Morneau did not completely atone for his error, but did drop a two-run single into right center. The hit also sent Willingham to third base and he scored the tying run when Danny Valencia lined to right. Ross made a nice running catch or the ball might have gone for extra bases.
From there, the Twins proved more opportunistic.
“We had a lot of opportunities and couldn’t come up with that big hit later. Early we got them; later in the game we couldn’t do it,” Ross said.
“We feel like we’re a better team than this and it’s frustrating. It’s a tough time right now.”