Xander Bogaerts spent just under nine minutes taking questions from reporters before the Red Sox played the Yankees on Sunday night.
The shortstop and de facto team captain is one of the most good-natured and positive people you can run across. But many of his answers came back to the same words.
“It’s hard,” Bogaerts said 12 different times. And that was before the Sox blew four leads and lost, 9-7.
Bogaerts is right. Trying to win with only two reliable starting pitchers is hard. Trying to bond with so many new teammates during a pandemic is hard. Watching Triple A pitchers trying to get the Yankees out is hard.
Losing Eduardo Rodriguez for the entire season because of a heart condition related to his having COVID-19; that was really hard.
At 3-7, the Red Sox are tied for the worst record in the American League and are already five games out first. It’s easy to see why.
The Sox really don’t have a rotation. There’s Nate Eovaldi, Martin Perez and a series of question marks. They’ve also played poor defense and run the bases like their masks were pulled over their eyes.
When Mookie Betts and David Price were traded in January, it was a clear message that this season didn’t matter and the Sox were preparing for the future. Chris Sale undergoing Tommy John surgery seven weeks later only reiterated this would be a lost season.
The Sox had 16 pitchers on their active roster Sunday, seven who were designated for assignment or released in the last nine months before the Sox picked them up.
Pitchers from that group have started four of the 10 games.
One of the castoffs, Matt Hall, inherited a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Sunday and allowed three runs. When the Sox came back to take a 5-3 lead, Hall gave up two more.
Behind Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, the Sox built a 7-6 lead only to see Matt Barnes allow three runs after retiring the first two batters in the eighth inning.
The go-ahead runs came in Aaron Judge’s second homer of the game, a 468-foot blast.
You can’t win with a pitching staff like that and the players know it. Their level of play has reflected it.
Saturday night’s 5-2 loss against the Yankees was a good example.
The Sox put two runners on base with two outs in the ninth inning against journeyman righthander David Hale. One swing could have tied the game.
With J.D. Martinez available to pinch hit, Andrew Benintendi took his turn at the plate and struck out on four pitches to end the game. That left him 2 for 24 on the season.
Martinez at that point had hit .320 against the Yankees with a 1.022 OPS since joining the Red Sox.
But he was not available. Here was how manager Ron Roenicke explained it.
“He had been in the cages trying to get loose. It’s a little harder to get J.D. quickly loose. But we had given him a couple of innings before and talked to him about it.
“He’s used to certain routines that he goes through and he knows different situations when they come up that there may be an opportunity. But Jerry [Narron, the bench coach] had gone down there a couple of innings before and just kind of gave him a heads up to be ready.”
“I would rather give him the day off, which we did. But if we needed it to win a ballgame we thought we may put him up there.”
So he could have hit?
“We could have,” Roenicke said. “Again, both of us probably rather would have not, him and us. That’s kind of what the decision came to.”
You’d hope a Red Sox player would be breaking down doors for a chance to beat the Yankees. But Martinez took a pass and Roenicke made it out to be a mutual decision.
It brings to mind the 2014 season, when what appeared to be a good Red Sox team fell apart after ownership made a lowball offer to ace lefthander Jon Lester.
The Sox played with little passion, fell out of contention quickly and there was a fire sale at the trade deadline that included Lester. It was the start of a long fallow period.
That could be where this is headed. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has been careful to say the Sox aren’t giving up on the season but also have to be mindful of the future.
The trade deadline is at Aug. 31 this season — assuming MLB is still operating at that point — and Bloom could deal away players like Martinez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mitch Moreland and Kevin Pillar.
Barnes spoke confidently after the game about the Sox being capable of going on a good run. But even with eight teams from each league making the playoff this season, how could they with this pitching?
Bogaerts is trying to stay hopeful.
“We don’t have much time. But in 50 games a lot can happen,” he said.
A lot already has. Too much.