It’s summertime and the living definitely isn’t easy for the Boston Red Sox.
Most importantly, Memorial Day is to remember and pay homage to those who gave their lives for this country. But it also marks the unofficial commencement of summer. The Red Sox are the soundtrack and the backdrop for summertime for many, as much a part of the season as Cape Cod traffic and flip-flops thwacking on cobblestone sidewalks.
So, is it possible for summer to be over before it has even started?
The Sox lost their 10th straight game, their composure, and a bit of dignity Sunday at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays. Their 8-5 defeat, replete with a silly seventh-inning altercation started by the oversensitive Sox, was a disappointing and indecorous way to author the franchise’s first 10-game losing streak in 20 years.
The so-good Sox of 2013 never lost more than three games in a row. In all this losing, the Sox have found how difficult it is to duplicate that gilded season.
The Lost Boys of Summer are now nine games under .500 and eight games back in the American League East. It’s getting late early, as Yogi Berra would say.
It was as if the Baseball Gods were smiting and taunting the Red Sox Sunday.
On the same day they endured a graceless loss, former Sox ace Josh Beckett tossed a no-hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Sox hit a low point as a man who once weighed down their clubhouse with his sullen attitude experienced one of baseball’s biggest highs.
If you were handy with the click-ah and could find the MLB Network, you were able to segue from Beckett’s moment in the sun to the Red Sox’ meltdown.
At 4:19 p.m., Beckett, the erstwhile posterchild for Red Sox’ clubhouse apathy and lethargy, closed out the 21st no-hitter in Dodgers history, striking out Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. He got a Gatorade dousing and a big hug from another Sox castoff, Adrian Gonzalez, who was just happy he didn’t have to play on “Sunday Night Baseball.” Folks in Los Angeles who found out the Dodgers’ new television network actually exists rejoiced.
Three minutes after Beckett’s masterpiece, Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer off Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow to break a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the seventh. The Sox had tied the game in the top of the seventh on a two-run, pinch-hit homer from Jonny Gomes.
At 4:29 p.m., Tampa Bay shortstop Yunel Escobar laced a two-out, two-run double that extended the Rays’ lead to 8-3.
The Sox replaced Breslow with Edward Mujica. Then it got interesting.
Escobar incurred the wrath of the arbiters of baseball etiquette, daring to take third base with the Sox standing around like they were in a TSA security line. The Sox, who had lost to the Rays in excruciating walkoff fashion each of the prior two days, were agitated. They felt Escobar had broken one of baseball’s 1,057 unwritten rules.
We had what the Brits call a row.
Gomes came flying in from left field and decided he was going to shut up Escobar, who was gesticulating, shouting, and moving toward David Ross in the Red Sox’ dugout.
Ultimately, the fight proved like the Sox’ offense — punchless. During the losing streak the Sox have hit .197 with runners in scoring position, .207 against righthanded pitching, and .212 overall.
It was a nadir for the Sox, squawking about a base being taken during a game that had been tied at the start of the frame. It seemed like a silly loser’s lament, especially because the Red Sox had squandered a five-run lead at the Trop the day before.
The fact there was a fracas about Escobar taking third (it was scored defensive indifference, not a steal) says more about the state of the Red Sox’ offense and injury-depleted roster than it does Escobar’s adherence to spurious baseball decorum.
A five-run deficit felt like being down 10 runs. The Sox knew they were done. That frustration was misdirected at Escobar, who admittedly makes himself an easy target with his comportment.
The Sox trumpeted their “deep depth” last year, but this year they look shallower than a Kardashian. Five runs feels insurmountable with a lineup that has Brock Holt leading off and Mike Carp batting fifth.
The Sox looked like they were caviling when Rays manager Joe Maddon pointed out postgame that former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury had stolen a base in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 2013 American League Division Series, with the Sox up by six runs.
Ellsbury ended up scoring one of four Sox runs that inning.
Ostensibly aware the NESN camera was on him, Maddon stared right into the network’s lens twice, as if he were delivering an address from the Oval Office, offering the Ellsbury rejoinder to the Sox’ indignation to all of New England.
The last time the Sox lost 10 games in a row was the strike-truncated season of 1994. It was Dan Duquette’s first season as Red Sox general manager. Mike Greenwell was still a member of the Red Sox.
It’s not the type of history the 2014 Sox were built to make.
It’s going to be a long summer here in the Hub of Hardware if the Red Sox can’t recover from this nosedive quickly.
The Bruins are on ice for the summer. The Celtics are hoping to rub their two first-round picks (No. 6 and No. 17) together to create a spark for the promised offseason fireworks (good luck). When does Patriots training camp start? This might be a good time for the streaking Revolution to pick up some soccer converts.
Enjoy the hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, and whatever else you grill up on Memorial Day. While you have your holiday cookout, the Sox could be cooked.