It is not the first time Shane Victorino, a veteran of nine major league seasons with three National League teams, has experienced a bump in the road.
But when you play for the Red Sox, as most newcomers to Boston have discovered, bumps can often become potholes. And potholes can often become chasms, especially if the Olde Towne Team lapses into a prolonged losing streak.
Such was the case Thursday night after the Red Sox surged to a 2-0 lead but lost for the third game in a row — and sixth time in their last seven — after suffering a 5-3 setback to the Twins before a Fenway Park crowd of 31,571.
But Victorino, who left the Dodgers and signed a three-year contract with the Red Sox in December, brought his sunny Hawaiian disposition to the hardened East Coast. It explained why Victorino steadfastly attempted to focus on the positive — and not dwell on the negative — after the Sox were beat once again by the Twins.
“You’ve just got to keep battling,’’ said Victorino, who went 2 for 5 with a single and a double, both to right, in his first two plate appearances. He gave the Sox a 1-0 lead in the third inning when he scored from second on Dustin Pedroia’s single to center.
“It’s all part of the game,’’ Victorino said of the ebbs and flows of a 162-game season. “Somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose at the end of the night. It’s about how you go out there and compete and fight to the end. Obviously, we did that. We put ourselves in a situation to be able to come back late in the game, but unfortunately we didn’t get the outcome we wanted.’’
Asked what answer he had to help the team snap out of its skid, the veteran right fielder replied, “If I had an answer, I would’ve stopped it about seven days ago. You know, I think it’s just part of the game. Somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose. But we just have to go out there and minimize some of the mistakes we make. Early on, we weren’t, and that’s the kind of stuff, when you win, what it’s all about. When you play perfect baseball, you go out there and minimize mistakes. Right now, when you’re losing, it seems like the snowball keeps rolling down the wrong hill.’’
That seemed to be the case in the sixth when Sox starter John Lackey squandered a 2-1 lead, his throwing error to second base opening the floodgates for the Twins to score four unearned runs on two hits, including a two-run homer by Oswaldo Arcia that made it 5-2.
Victorino attempted to ignite the team when he tried to prevent Justin Morneau from scoring the go-ahead run on Ryan Doumit’s sacrifice fly to right. Victorino made the catch and fired home, where catcher David Ross was forced to come off the plate to receive the throw. It allowed Morneau to slide underneath Ross’s late tag, giving the Twins a 3-2 lead.
“It’s not an easy play as a catcher,’’ Victorino said. “I make the throw, but he had to come and get it and go back to the plate. It’s easier said than done sometimes.
“You just try to put yourself in the best position to make plays, but again, we’ve got to continue battling and that’s what this team is built on. Obviously, winning teams like this will always overcome and keep battling. We keep playing until the last out and that’s the most important part. That’s the positive thing that I like about the situation we’re in; we play until the 27th out.’’
The sixth inning ruined what otherwise was a quality performance by Lackey, who went seven innings and allowed five runs (one earned) on six hits and one walk while matching his season high with eight strikeouts and throwing a season-high 102 pitches (74 strikes).
“He pitched great,’’ Victorino said. “Again, mistakes sometimes get that snowball rolling, and obviously it happened tonight. John pitched a great game. I tip my hat to him.’’
Victorino offered a simple solution on how to reverse the losing trend.
“We’ve got to stay focused and not worry about what’s going on,’’ he said. “When I say not worry, obviously you worry because you’ve lost six out of seven, but there’s so much season left. If you keep holding on to that, and you keep worrying about that, it just keeps getting worse and worse.
“We’ll just chalk it up and keep battling and come back tomorrow.’’