The Red Sox have had a tumultuous season magnified by injuries, lackluster play, and the struggles of their better hitters such as J.D. Martinez. They have had to patch together a starting rotation and have had a void all season at the second base position and, typically, right field.
Surprisingly, though, they hadn’t been shut out this year, holding the longest active streak in the majors at 68 games dating back to last season.
That stood until Saturday.
The Sox lost to the Yankees, 8-0, in convincing fashion behind a stellar performance by starter J.A. Happ. The Yankee lefthander threw eight shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing just four hits.
This isn’t new for Happ. He holds a 13-4 career record against the Sox, posting a 2.79 ERA in 27 games.
“We’ve had trouble with Happ,” Sox manager Ron Roenicke said afterward. “He moves the ball around well. He pitches inside well. He throws the changeup, throws his breaking ball. In the three years I’ve been here, we have not hit him very well. That was most of it. We didn’t have very many good at-bats.”
The other part of it — actually, the biggest part of it — was the Sox' sloppy defense and mental lapses.
The Red Sox entered the contest against having committed 37 errors on the season. It was second to only the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Sox also had a zero ultimate zone rating and zero defensive runs saved.
On Saturday, they gave fill-in starter Chris Mazza zero help, committing three errors in addition to the mental blunders.
It began in the top of the first inning after DJ LeMahieu reached second on a single through the right side of the infield.
Mazza walked Aaron Judge, putting two runners on, and then issued a passed ball that advanced the runners to second and third. LeMahieu scored on a sacrifice fly by Gio Urshela.
The Red Sox squandered a chance at getting LeMahieu out at the plate when first baseman Bobby Dalbec cut off Cesar Puello’s throw from right field. The Yankees wound up scoring two runs that inning for an early 2-0 lead.
With a runner on first and one out in the fourth, the Sox had a chance at a double play when Mike Tauchman hit a grounder to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who booted the ball, allowing Clint Frazier to advance to second. The next batter, Kyle Higashioka, shot a ball to right field, scoring Frazier to make it 3-0.
The ball found Bogaerts again on Tyler Wade’s grounder to short. With a chance at a double play, Bogaerts opted to take it upon himself to step on the bag for the force out at second on Higashioka, but made an errant throw to first that allowed Wade to reach base and advance to second and Tauchman to score another unearned run, making it 4-0.
In the eighth, Dalbec committed a baserunning blunder when he was on second and tried to take third on Michael Chavis’s grounder to short.
Although he was called safe at third, it was not the correct baseball play.
In the ninth, Urshela hit yet another sacrifice fly, but Luke Voit, who was on first, didn’t tag up. When Puello made the catch, he threw to first, doubling off Voit to end the inning. But because Dalbec didn’t hustle to the bag, which led the run to be counted despite it coming on the third out of the frame. Roenicke called the mistakes, particularly the baserunning gaffe, a learning experience.
“Sometimes there’s a lot going on and you don’t react the right way,” Roenicke said. “The more [he] plays, the more he’ll get better at that.”
Rafael Devers made a diving stab on a Voit line drive in the ninth, but committed his 11th error of the season when he airmailed the throw to first from his seat.
Happ had a dominant evening, but the Sox' struggles defensively were glaring.
“We played so well [Friday night] on defense,” Roenicke said. “Then today, we didn’t look like the same guys.”
They haven’t all season.