By the time their flight got in, late Thursday night already had turned into early Friday morning.
It was 1:45 and in a matter of hours the Red Sox had to somehow tie a bow around a year that had seen the city get shaken by the bombings at the Boston Marathon and a Back Bay fire that claimed the lives of two firefighters and at the same time celebrate a team that reinvented itself from a last-place squad to a unified World Series champion.
“We had a lot of stuff going on,” slugger David Ortiz said about the Red Sox’ home-opening series against the Milwaukee Brewers that began Friday afternoon. “The first game, we barely had time to really prepare for the game with all the stuff that was going on. We got in kind of late night from Baltimore and we’ve got to be here kind of early in the morning and all this stuff’s going on. I don’t even think we took batting practice. But it’s part of winning the year before.’’
They also had a series to play.
Over the course of their first three home games, backup first baseman Mike Carp had to sit with back tightness, third baseman Will Middlebrooks landed on the disabled list with a calf strain, Ortiz took a scheduled off day, and the Red Sox were swept by a National League team for the first time since 2012 after falling, 4-0, to the Brewers Sunday afternoon.
Seven days and six games into the season, the Red Sox (2-4) are a team still trying to catch its breath.
“You’ve got all kinds of stuff going on,” said catcher David Ross. “Getting unpacked, getting your apartment settled. [Figuring out] how to get home. A couple guys got lost going home the other day. You just get readjusted.”
But the swift combination of injuries and early losses hit them before they could do that.
Before the game, manager John Farrell didn’t want to use the hectic schedule as a crutch.
“Once the season begins, you’re at the mercy of the schedule,” Farrell said. “We knew this week was going to have a couple of events that are not normal but well-deserved and earned. So you try to strike a balance and keep that in perspective. We need to just go out and play well and win.’’
But in a game in which errors were costly and timely hitting never came, he admitted that it’s been difficult for the Sox to get into an early rhythm.
The Sox fell into a two-run hole in the second inning after some confusion between starter Jon Lester and backup third baseman Jonathan Herrera on a bunt to the left side of the infield, and then a misplay on a tricky line drive to Daniel Nava in right field that turned a Mark Reynolds RBI single into another run.
Herrera, who made five starts at third base a year ago for the Colorado Rockies, was making his second straight start at third with Middlebrooks going on the DL.
With Jonathon Lucroy (leadoff double) on second and the Brewers’ No. 6 hitter, Khris Davis, at the plate, Herrera was playing behind the bag, never expecting Davis to lay down a bunt. He did.
Herrera’s first thought was to cover third with the runner coming from second, before he charged the ball. Lester’s natural reaction was to go after the bunt before pulling up. Their signals were crossed, the ball ended up on the grass between them.
“On the report, he’s not supposed to bunt much,” Herrera said. “He surprised everybody on that play.”
Only two of the four runs Lester gave up in his 7⅓ innings were earned, and despite striking out six and at one point retiring 16 straight Brewers, he left with his second loss of the season.
In two starts, Lester has gotten one run of support.
“He pitched very well again,” Nava said. “This is two times out and I know he’s got to be frustrated because we put up one run in two outings. It’ll fall. Still, you want to get as many as you can.”
The Sox have had no shortage of base runners in the season’s early stages, but they’ve struggled to drive them in. They went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position against Yovani Gallardo and two relievers, leaving nine on base.
“I know our hitters are up there grinding out at-bats, the effort is there,” Lester said. “They obviously don’t want to not get any runs on the board. I have to worry about pitching, going out and putting up zeroes, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to put up enough zeroes today and their guy pitched a little better.”
One of the strengths the Sox leaned on a year ago was their depth, but it’s been tested early. Six games in, 13 position players have started.
“We have to make the most out of what we have at the time,” Farrell said. “Injuries are unpredictable. We haven’t been able to get into a rhythm with our normal starting lineup but that’s the game.
“We feel like we’ve got quality depth to replace guys, the next guy up’s got an opportunity in front of him to do a job and we’ve got to make the most of the situation at hand.”
With seven games until their next off day, the schedule doesn’t get any lighter.
“But,” Ortiz said, “everything will go back to normal, I’m pretty sure.”