DETROIT — The Red Sox were one game over .500 on May 14 and a half-game out of first place in the American League East. Their World Series hangover was over and they woke up in contention.
A 10-game losing streak followed. Then, just as improbably, a seven-game win streak.
Now the losing is back. The Sox were beaten again on Friday night, 6-2 by the Detroit Tigers. That’s four losses in a row and the Sox are stuck in reverse again.
“Just haven’t been consistent. That’s it. When you have losing streaks then winning streaks then losing streaks, you’re not consistent,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said.
Losing 14 of the last 21 has the Red Sox 10 games out of first place. At 27-33 they have the sixth-worst record in baseball.
“A lot of guys are frustrated. We’re tired of losing. We’ve got to play better,” Pedroia said.
The Sox were held to seven hits and Detroit pitchers retired 11 of the final 13 batters they faced. The Sox were hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position and are 3 for 27 in that category on the road trip with 11 runs in the four games.
One of their runs on Friday scored only because of a Detroit error.
“Offensively we’re scuffling to put an inning together,” manager John Farrell said. “We’ve had a rough go with people on base, with runners in scoring position. We have to continue to grind and maintain a concentration that finishes through an inning.”
Lack of offensive talent is more of a factor. With first baseman Mike Napoli and right fielder Shane Victorino on the disabled list, the Red Sox lineup is easily managed by opposing pitchers once they get past cleanup hitter David Ortiz.
The Red Sox started four hitters with batting averages of .231 or worse on Friday.
“This is who we are and this is who we have to continue to grind with,” Farrell said.
The first inning was an illustration that even the reliable players are faltering.
Brock Holt singled to start the game against Detroit lefthander Drew Smyly and scored on a double to the gap in left field by Xander Bogaerts. The ball was just a few feet away from being a home run.
But with Bogaerts on second base, Pedroia fouled out, Ortiz grounded out, and Jonny Gomes struck out looking.
“I was trying to get inside the ball and drive it to right field. He got in on me and jammed me,” Pedroia said.
The Sox had five hits the rest of the way against Smyly (3-4) and three relievers.
Ortiz is hitting .174 with eight RBIs in the last 21 games and Pedroia .238 with six runs driven in.
Red Sox righthander Rubby De La Rosa was brilliant against the Tampa Bay Rays last Saturday, throwing seven shutout innings and striking out eight. But based on his start against the Tigers, that performance may have been more a reflection on the last-place Rays and their inept offense.
De La Rosa retired the first six Tigers in order on 20 pitches. But he gave up four runs on eight hits in the three innings that followed.
Nick Castellanos led off the third inning with a double down the line in right. He scored when Austin Romine singled to center.
The Tigers had four hits in the fourth inning but scored only one run thanks to the range and strong arm of Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field.
Torii Hunter led off with a single and took third when Miguel Cabrera singled. Victor Martinez then hammered a 98-mile-per-hour fastball to the gap in right field.
The ball looked sure to land on the warning track and Cabrera headed for third. But Bradley caught up to the ball and made a strong throw back to the infield to double off Cabrera.
Hunter tagged up and scored on the play. De La Rosa allowed two more singles in the inning but escaped further damage.
Ian Kinsler and Hunter had home runs with two outs in the fifth inning. Kinsler sent a changeup to left field and Hunter a fastball out to right.
De La Rosa threw fastballs at 97, 98, and 99 to Cabrera but walked him. He ended the inning by getting Martinez to ground out. De La Rosa (1-1) allowed four runs on nine hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
“Sometimes [my fastball] was too high and they took advantage of that,” De La Rosa said. “I felt a little bit rushed . . . I did my best.”
Chris Capuano allowed two runs in the eighth inning, one on a home run by Martinez.
The Red Sox will get Napoli off the disabled list on Sunday. Victorino could be back in two weeks. Pedroia pointed out that the Red Sox have 102 games left.
“I haven’t got hot yet. I plan on getting hot,” he said. “So is David. We’re going to get Nap back, we’re going to get Vic back. We’ll be there.”
The bold talk sounded hopeful. But the Red Sox face fearsome Max Scherzer on Saturday night. Jon Lester is pitching for the Sox but Scherzer beat him, 1-0, on May 16.
The Sox are 0-4 against the Tigers this season, getting outscored, 19-5.
“We’ve got to figure it out,” Pedroia said. “That’s really it.”