It suddenly started raining heavily at Fenway Park in the bottom of the sixth inning Monday night and thousands of fans left their seats and headed for cover.
The downpour was a brief one, but those folks didn’t break stride on their way out. They knew what the outcome would be.
In the kind of game that has become an all-too-regular event, the Red Sox were staggeringly inept at the plate in a 4-0 loss against the Chicago White Sox.
Righthander Scott Carroll, a 29-year-old rookie with mediocre statistics, combined with two relievers on a two-hitter. The Red Sox never advanced a runner past second base and grounded into 18 outs.
The first five hitters in the order — Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli — were 0 for 18 and got the ball out of the infield once.
“It’s not like [Carroll] had some trick pitch we’d never seen before. He was throwing sinkers down,” said A.J. Pierzynski, who had one of the two hits.
It was the ninth time the Red Sox were shut out — the fourth time at Fenway — and the third time this season they were held to two hits. The Red Sox are averaging 3.75 runs, the fewest in the American League. Even the Houston Astros, a team that acknowledged before the season it has no hope of contending, are scoring more.
“I walk in every night thinking we’re going to put up an outing where we’re going to be in the ballgame, where we’ve got the ability to execute to create opportunities,” manager John Farrell said. “That wasn’t the case tonight.”
The 39-50 Red Sox have lost three straight, six of seven, and 12 of their last 17 games.
“There’s a shared frustration. We all wear it,” Farrell said.
Carroll (3-5) spent parts of eight seasons in the minors before making his major league debut in April. He arrived at Fenway with a 5.05 earned run average and had not won a game as a starter since his debut.
But the Red Sox never came remotely close to scoring against him. Like Vidal Nuno, Kyle Gibson, Kevin Correia, and an assortment of other mundane starters this season, Carroll made the Red Sox look bad.
The Red Sox face John Danks and Chris Sale the next two nights. It could get worse.
When Napoli walked with two outs in the seventh, Carroll was lifted after throwing a career-high 105 pitches. Javy Guerra came in and got Stephen Drew to pop to left field.
Jackie Bradley Jr. was 1 for 2 with a walk, continuing what has been a positive trend at the plate. He is 14 of 46 (.304) in his last 14 games with a .360 on-base percentage.
“Definitely going in the right direction” said Bradley, who has a five-game hit streak. “I keep stringing together some quality at-bats.”
Clay Buchholz (3-5) didn’t pitch a bad game, giving up four runs on five hits over seven innings. But any Red Sox starter who gives up more than a couple of runs is doomed.
“Nobody wants to be 10 or 11 games under .500,” Buchholz said. “It snowballs on you a little bit. Everybody wants to be the guy that breaks out of it. Every pitcher that starts a game wants to be the guy who doesn’t give up any runs.”
Buchholz pitched well in his first two starts after coming off the disabled list, giving up five earned runs over 13⅔ innings. This game was an uneven one for the righthander in that he walked one and struck out seven, but gave up two long home runs.
Adam Dunn launched a home run two rows beyond the visitor’s bullpen in right field in the second. It was the 453d career home run for Dunn, moving him past Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski for 35th place all time. Ortiz is 37th with 450.
Buchholz got two quick outs in the fourth inning. He then left a fastball up to Dunn that was hammered to the base of the wall in center field for a double.
Buchholz walked Alexei Ramirez on four pitches that never came close to the strike zone. It was his first walk since coming off the disabled list.
Buchholz got ahead of Dayan Viciedo, 0 and 2, before the Chicago right fielder worked the count full. Buchholz left a cutter up over the outside corner and the ball was launched to center and landed in the seats just to the right of the triangle.
Alejandro De Aza followed with a sharp single to center field. The Red Sox got Felix Doubront up in the bullpen but he was not needed as Buchholz ended the inning after 38 pitches.
Buchholz retired the final 10 batters he faced, six by strikeout. He has struck out 11 and walked one in 20⅔ innings since coming off the DL. But he also has allowed five home runs.
“The last three innings I was out there, that’s as close to last year as I’ve felt,” Buchholz said.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.